South Africa v India, 1st Test, Centurion, 1st day December 16, 2010

Harbhajan rues losing crucial toss

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Harbhajan Singh says his team was well-prepared for the series, but not for the damp pitch where the toss was vital, where the ball seamed and nipped around, while some stopped on the batsmen. He did not think a warm-up game would have made any difference because it wouldn't have prepared them for what they received at the SuperSport Park where they lost nine wickets on a day in which four-and-a-half hours were lost to rain. He also believed his side could get South Africa out cheaply, and make up for their batting failure in the second innings. It was that kind of a day.

To be fair to Harbahjan, he never suggested it was a designer pitch, and also gave credit where it was due. "We were quite prepared to play on a good track, but unfortunately with the rain and stuff it was quite a damp wicket," he said. "The toss was very crucial to this match. We lost the toss. They bowled well in the given conditions, and they got the rewards. If we had won the toss, I think we would have done the same thing. We would have bowled first, then who knows what would have happened."

The bad news for India is that Harbhajan doesn't expect similar assistance from the pitch later on in the Test. "I don't know how long it will help the seamers," he said. "But definitely there is a lot of movement after pitching, swinging and cutting both ways, because it is damp. If we get the sun tomorrow, obviously it will play a lot better than it did today. That's what I think. I could be wrong.

"We are playing on a wet wicket where the ball is seaming or nipping. A warm-up game would have been on a perfect cricketing wicket. You can't complain about wickets, but we need to make sure we come back into the game."

Harbhajan put up a fight with the bat, scoring 27 off 25 balls, and adding 39 runs for the seventh wicket with MS Dhoni, which could yet prove to be crucial, but was disappointed at how he got out. Taking the third run, Harbhajan's bat got stuck in the ground as he tried to slide it into the crease, and a smart back-flick from Mark Boucher converted a wide throw into a run-out.

"If the ball was in my area, I was looking to hit, not just survive," he said. "I was there to get runs, not to kill time. It's important to get as many as you can in the first innings. It will make an impact when you go to bowl. If you score 150 or 200, whatever you get is good enough. We will go out and give our best shot.

"Very disappointed the way I got out. My bat got stuck and I got run out. I was batting really well, I was hitting the ball really well. Unfortunately I couldn't score too many runs. I hope in the next innings I don't even have to bat. Hopefully the batsmen will score a lot of runs."

Harbhajan called on the spirit of this team that has bailed them out of more than a few crisis situations in recent times. "Obviously we had a bad day with the bat," he said. "It's not over yet. We have got to believe that we can go out and get their batsmen out. And once we go out to bat in the next innings, we will show what batting actually means.

"As I said, it is not over yet. We played one session badly, it doesn't mean we can't come back. We have shown enough number of times that we are a team that likes to be challenged. We are in a situation where we have to go out and give our best, and try to get them out, and make sure they don't go too far from us. Whatever has happened is gone, and I think we can make a match out of this."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on December 18, 2010, 11:21 GMT

    @ Loftedshots - one innings and that too on a rain soaked day and you start calling Amla better than Sachin. Well the rest of series will prove how wrong a desperate wannabe No 1 team fan can be. SA thought No 1 was for their taking when Aussies go down. But guess what, it didn't happen and now they are the one who are desperate to reach there, at any cost. We lost the toss, otherwise the story would have been different.

  • LoftedShot on December 18, 2010, 6:19 GMT

    Hehe...World No.1 team! haha. Flat track bullies pounding runs at home and then spinners taking 10 wickets on a powdery, 5th day pitch is one thing and standing up in front of seaming deliveries on true bounce pitches altogether another matter.

    After West Indies in 80s, it was only Australians who deserve to be ranked No.1 in 90s and early 2000s. Rest are all clowns, heroes at home, zeroes away. Hashim Amla and Kallis bat better on true bounce pitches where bowlers bowl at pace and seam than so called greats like Tendulkar, Dravid, LAX man etc. Bitter? Yes...but true.

  • agn007 on December 17, 2010, 18:15 GMT

    So that was the practice game for india.... surely the pitch is going to play far far beter with sunshine.... horrid time for indian bowlers ofcourse.... but watch out SA ,,.... hw much ever u score, indian batting will stand tall in the second innings.... this is nt a subcontinent wicket which wears of very fast.... its just gone get beter for batting.... wid paul harris the sole spinner, indians have a gud chance of levelling this one..... Go sehwag.........

  • dummy4fb on December 17, 2010, 16:45 GMT

    We are playing this game with 8 batsmen and no bowler.. ITs actually great that e got two wickets..

  • Petesta on December 17, 2010, 10:30 GMT

    To the people saying SA aren't good in Indian conditions: since coming back into international cricket, SA have played 12 tests in India. We have won 5, lost 5 and drawn 2. (check it on stats guru yourself). So you are wrong. And we are much better than them in SA conditions. India have a better record against some other teams and the rankings are fair. I think it's up to us (SA) to prove we are better than India.

  • Saadi69 on December 17, 2010, 9:49 GMT

    Harbhajan was blaming the toss and the pitch, fair enough the conditions were tough and the toss was cruicial but having said that if you look at the dismissals most of them had nothing to do with the pitch itself. Sehwag played a poor shot, Gambhir was not looking good at all, Raina poked at one which he could have left and his bat was well away from the body. The only players looking good were Sachin, Dravid and Harbhajan. Dravid got a good ball Harbhajan was unlucky and Sachin lost concentration. Dravid apart the pitch had nothing to do with the dismissals. Oh yea and harbhajan as well since his bat got stuck in the pitch so he was right in blaming the pitch:)

  • VairaPandi on December 17, 2010, 9:31 GMT

    Here after toss should be avoided and rotation policy should come. When two teams meet, for example India and SA, the decision for batting or fielding will be taken India in one match and by SA in another match. This should continue for the next series also. In the last series final game if SA decides, now in the new series first match India should decide. This will give even option for both the teams. Particularly Dhoni will support this idea as he lose toss most of the time.

  • dummy4fb on December 17, 2010, 9:15 GMT

    What a joke to even take Unakad to SA tour. The guy is just bowling at speeds of 125KM/hr, I thought he is a genuine fast bowler. What is wrong with the Indian selection panel??

    And it really doesn't look like he can take wickets.

    Don't know whats going on here.

  • Icyman on December 17, 2010, 9:08 GMT

    If Harbhajan could bat and score 27,so could the others. But theny did not apply themselves int his Test. So far, it is a=going as per my predictions that we would struggle in the 1st Test but bounce back in the next two/

  • atul2884 on December 17, 2010, 8:07 GMT

    Guys this happens when the expectation is high and this happened with the previous champs Oz at the Adelaid but Today they have comeback strongly Give your side a chance and lets talk after the first test.

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