The venue was Nagpur and the South Africans were playing India A on their last tour to India. One youngster cover drove medium pacer Dodda Ganesh in a copybook manner and the ball landed right into the stands. That one shot was ample proof that he had come to stay. The batsman was none other than Herschell Gibbs who showed what attacking batting was all about at Kochi. Gibbs effortlessly smashed Agarkar into the stands over covers in the early stages, which was an indication of the things to follow.
Kirsten and Gibbs made their intentions clear from the very first over and Ganguly was made to realise that captaincy is not a bed of roses. The medium pacers Agarkar and Kumaran were hit out of the attack and the spinners were in action much earlier than they would have wanted. Such was the domination of Gibbs and Kirsten that Ganguly sought the counsel of his predecessors when hardly ten overs were bowled. Runs were freely scored on either side of the wicket though the ball beat the outside edge on a couple of occasions.
The way Kirsten and Gibbs complemented each other was simply superb. At one stage, Kirsten overtook his partner, without any apparent effort. Gibbs carried on braving exhaustion and was definitely helped by Sameer Dighe's shoddy work behind the stumps. Gibbs and Kirsten went on to complete centuries and provided a platform for a score of about 350 to 370. The Indians on their part did well despite things not going their way to restrict the score to around the 300 mark. Rahul Dravid's success as a bowler should either reflect on the bowling strength or should be hailed as a great discovery by the new captain.
"Collective effort" was the theme Ganguly wanted to emphasise to his teammates. The chase was always going to be difficult and it was imperative that the Indians were positive collectively. Ganguly led by example starting off with panache and Tendulkar for once was left to watch the proceedings from the other end. The partnership between Jadeja and Azharuddin proved to the crucial one as they collected runs without taking any chances. The big shots were unleashed with precision and at the right time before Kallis dismissed Azharuddin. Robin Singh, the quiet and effective performer joined Jadeja and they relish batting in the one-dayers. The singles were taken at will and they put the pressure on the fielders in the deep by running hard. Jadeja in the meanwhile clouted a couple of sixes off Crookes but a magnificent innings came to an end just eight runs short of a well deserved hundred. Robin Singh, in the company of Kumble, ensured that the Indians won amidst high drama in the end.
The scriptwriters for the drama were the umpires and the lead star was the third umpire. One fails to understand how such silly mistakes can be made considering the available technological assistance. The players came back onto the field and the Indians got the required solitary run to achieve a fantastic victory. They have the psychological advantage and it is upto them to keep it going. This victory has come at the right time and hopefully it may as well prove to be the turning point.