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The Bulletin by Siddarth Ravindran
December 17, 2010
South Africa 366 for 2 (Amla 116*, Kallis 102*, Petersen 77, Smith 62) lead India 136 (Morkel 5-20) by 230 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Features : A day for walkers and a day out for the ladies
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News : Harbhajan assault was deliberate - Petersen
Analysis : Indian bowling listless in Zaheer Khan's absence
Features : Morkel steps into Ntini's shoes
Matches: South Africa v India at Centurion
Series/Tournaments: India tour of South Africa
South Africa had a near-perfect day in Centurion to move into a position of such dominance that, after just 125 overs of play in the Test, India will be as interested in the weather forecast as the scorecard for the remainder of the match. On a sunny second day at SuperSport Park, along with the clouds, the demons on the pitch went missing, and South Africa's batsmen capitalised. Jacques Kallis reached 100 faster than he has ever done in Tests and Hashim Amla pushed his Test average against India this year beyond 600 as South Africa ended the day 230 ahead with eight wickets remaining.
India's away record may have improved dramatically over the past decade but their performance so far in Centurion is reminiscent of the terrible travellers of the pre-Sourav Ganguly era. The South African openers, Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen, made half-centuries to nearly equal India's total on their own, before Amla and Kallis utterly demoralised the world's No. 1 side with an unbroken 200-run stand.
India's vaunted batting order had been dismantled on the first day, and there was more punishment in store on the second morning as the South African openers added 111 without any trouble. Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma got the new ball to move, and though the batsmen swished-and-missed some times, there were no genuine chances through most of the morning.
Petersen was scratchy early on, and it was Smith who did the bulk of the scoring in a watchful start. After six overs, South Africa had moved to 9 for 0 and the run-flow increased only after the introduction of the 19-year-old rookie Jaidev Unadkat. His third delivery was a gentle half-volley that was driven fluently past mid-off for four by Smith, and bowling in the late-120s, his bouncers were easy put-aways too.
With Petersen also finding his touch, the run-rate began to rise, and Dhoni turned to spin in the hope of a breakthrough. Harbhajan Singh didn't have the best of starts though, slapped for a couple of fours in his first over and then dispatched over midwicket for six in the next. Smith was using the cut effectively against Harbhajan until his downfall, minutes before lunch, when he top-edged a delivery that bounced extra.
The second session began with Petersen stabbing a wide delivery past point for a boundary, and set the tone for another two hours of superiority as India looked woefully short of firepower. A lovely bunch of drives suggested Petersen was set for a second Test century before he walked on a very thin inside-edge to short leg.
India were buoyed by the dismissal of the openers, but had very little to cheer during the rest of the day. Amla, with the confidence that comes from scoring a wagonload of runs, made a cavalier century, which lacked his customary serenity. In a rare spell where the South African batsmen were troubled, Harbhajan nearly had Amla caught behind after getting one to turn in sharply from outside off. The response from Amla was to swipe the next ball over midwicket for six. Amla kept looking to pull the quicks and paddle Harbhajan from outside off, while also indulging in his trademark cover drives and slashes past point.
Keeping him company was Kallis, who was in an even more adventurous mood. Initially, he carted the part-time hit-me deliveries of Suresh Raina, depositing a couple over deep midwicket for sixes though there was a fielder for that shot. With the frontline bowlers not making an impact, Sachin Tendulkar was called on to bowl his all-sorts, which didn't curb the runs either - 125 runs came in the 28 overs that were bowled in the second session.
The battering continued after tea, Kallis and Amla picking up 130 off 32 overs. The punishing rate was maintained though there wasn't too much high-risk batting, with the Indians regularly providing boundary balls. The closest India came to a wicket was a french-cut from Amla on 65. Otherwise, it was a lesson in run- accumulation. With the pitch easing up and the opposition waiting for the end of the day, Amla and Kallis displayed their appetite for big scores and batted India out of the match.
Both batsman reached their hundreds towards the end of a flawless day which had been given the perfect start by Morne Morkel. He removed MS Dhoni with the third ball of the day - the Indian captain walking after being struck in front of middle stump. Morkel finished with career-best figures of 5 for 20, and India were bowled out for their overnight score of 136, their third-lowest total in South Africa.
After much talk about an evenly matched top-of-the-table clash, the first two days in Centurion could scarcely have been more one-sided.
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