South Africa v India, 1st Test, Centurion, 2nd day December 17, 2010

Harbhajan assault was deliberate - Petersen


Alviro Petersen's strongest statement of the day was made in the 20th over. He went down on a bent knee and slog-swept Harbhajan Singh over deep square leg for six. He had previously pulled Ishant Sharma to square-leg, driven Jaidev Unadkat through mid-off and Sreesanth through the covers, but this was that shot that expressed his intentions.

"We didn't want Harbhajan to settle," Petersen said later. "We felt that if the ball was in our scoring areas and we could hit it, we would."

Graeme Smith went on to play a confident cut, a classy on-drive and a powerful pull and Harbhajan went for 19 in his first couple of overs. After Smith's exit, Harbhajan got away with three boundary-less overs and if not for a drop from MS Dhoni, would have dismissed Hashim Amla. Petersen receded into his shell a little and came out only to drive a full Sreesanth delivery on the on-side.

"We needed to have a lot of patience on this wicket." Petersen said. He admitted that both he and Smith were tentative early on and "weren't worried about the runs on the board," as much as about seeing off the new ball and any early movement. "The longer you stay in, the easier it gets to bat," he said - an observation that implied he was disappointed that he didn't push on to reach three figures. He was driving confidently in the morning session and looked set to continue in that vein. If he had, it would have gone a long way in cementing an opening slot.

Petersen took over the role at a time when South Africa was going through a mini-crisis. Ashwell Prince had made clear his desire to return to the middle order, Herschelle Gibbs had fallen out of favour and into rehab. Two strong seasons at the first-class level made Petersen the automatic choice. In 2008-09 season he finished third highest domestic scorer with 798 runs in nine matches at an average of 49.87. In the 2009-10 season, he made 557 runs in seven matches at an average of 55.7.

With JP Duminy suffering a loss of form after the heroics that in Australia and Prince desperate to return to the middle order, it made sense to bring Petersen in. In February, after the first Test against India in Nagpur, the time was right. Prince had made a duck opening and Duminy nine runs at No. 6. Duminy was dropped, Prince moved down and there was room for Petersen.

His debut - a crunch match against India at Eden Gardens - was going to be more mentally taxing than anything else. When Smith fell in the third over with the score on nine, it looked like Petersen was in for a rough ride. It would have been a topsy-turvy experience had he not been joined by the supremely confident and in-form Hashim Amla. Both went on record centuries and Petersen's talent had announced itself on a grand stage.

Apart from that, Petersen has not had a situation tough enough to test his mettle as an opener. He is playing in just his seventh match and has had a fairly gentle introduction to the big time. Ideally, after Kolkata, he should have gone on to stake a claim by scoring a century or two in the June tour of the Caribbean. Instead, he returned from three Tests with only one half-century to his name. His return in the two Tests against Pakistan was better and he looked likely to score a century in the first Test in Dubai before falling for 67.

A second Test century is probably due for Petersen now, but he will have to wait for a while, possibly until the next match. Petersen didn't appear too concerned with not reaching the milestone in the first innings and said South Africa wanted to "bat India out of the match." He said the dressing room was "not satisfied with where we are now in the match" and had not yet thought about a declaration. Only a massive lead will satisfy South Africa and they only want to bat once.

"The wicket is getting quicker and it's changing quite a lot. A quick wicket suits our strengths so that's what we want," Petersen said, a warning to India that another blitz can be expected from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in the second innings.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

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

    @ all : Great Aus team of 90's and 00's couldn't won the series in India until 2004 since 1969 , then no one raise their ranking's creditability so why that now?.we are slow starters on overseas tour... so wait and watch

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2010, 11:01 GMT

    merely dead batting is also boring wickets should be ploughed every session. to bring life to is batting dominated

  • Ram on December 18, 2010, 10:55 GMT

    Hmm.Guys lets be fair.Yes India should have managed not to lose wickets on d 1st day being d No.1 side..But to term India and it's bowling attack as worst and criticising that India shudn't b No.1 side is unfair just because I remember d same bowling attack ripped thru all SA wickets vth in 2 hrs some 3-4 yrs back just for 84 runs in similar kind of conditions..What's ur take on dat guys..So lets not get excited by just 1 session..D pitch n conditions assisted d bowling a lot n SA's bowling attack being d best in the world capitalized that(some poor shots from d Indian Batsmen added).Btw rain is forecasted for the 4th n 5th days..If dats d case..certain Indian batsmen might agn struggle to bat under dose conditions.I feel guys like Gambhir n Raina shud giv deir way 2 Pujara n co. as their footwork is very much tentative towards swing bowling..dats true!!My take on the series is SA is goin to win dis series 2-1 agn given dat d 1st test is already theirs!!

  • arish on December 18, 2010, 9:18 GMT

    all u guys who are jealous of india's no: 1 position, just wait. It is only 2 days. Every Indian batsman (except raina) is in form at present. Once they start of the next time we will see what will happen to the awesome SA attack. (It is just a 2 bowler attack). And mark my words, before Indian team returns.. they are going to demolish this bowling attack and maybe even break Morkel's confidence for a long time. (Steyn of course is the best fast bowler in the world today). ........................ And lastly India is No: 1 team in the world. It is NOT the ALL TIME GREATEST TEAM... stop comparing them with Aussies of 3 yr back.. they were probably the best cricket team ever.... when we say that India is no: 1 .. we mean they are better than all other teams TODAY .... all of them SA, AUS, Eng, SL and the rest.

  • Dilshaad on December 18, 2010, 8:53 GMT

    Alomost 90% of the comments in this article & any article related to team India is about India being no.1 in Test ratings. I've never seen or heard of any comments like this when any other team was no.1 This simply says INDIA DOES NOT DESERVE TO BE NO.1 & it's so disgrace to see teams like India topping in the list. Will some one seriously look in to this...

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2010, 7:55 GMT

    @SV_Ravi: You do know that LBW is a form of dismissal , right? In fact, Hawk eye showed it shaving the middle stump whats the problem? In fact, Indians should feel lucky as Gambhir could have been out for much earlier when he nicked one and India would have skettled out for below 100....guess how that would have sounded? Btw, Laxman was clean bowled. and Dhoni's LBW was absolutely plumb , same with sachin. So what do u want? The BCCI should use its muscle to take LBW out as a mode of dismissal whenever the Indian team is batting?

  • Roelof on December 18, 2010, 7:53 GMT

    India at home? They juuust managed to salvage a drawn series the last two times South Africa toured there by preparing a dust bowl for the last test.

  • Sourabh on December 18, 2010, 7:38 GMT

    All these SA fans who are talking that Indians can not bat on bouncy pitch... So same goes to SA batsman who cannot bat on spinning track. So there is no need to talk about which is better team. all these teams are lions at home but not at away. only W.I. and AUS. are real world leaders.

  • ntokozo on December 18, 2010, 7:26 GMT

    Really puzzling 2 hear sum of the coments; like that S.A wud hv also been in the same situation had they lost the toss. I mean really now? Jst luk at the way the batsman got out. 1,Sewagh=Falling 2 an obvious trap with a senseless shot against the new ball;2,Gambir=Pushing without footwork at a harmless Morkel delivery;3, Dravid=Stuck in the crease 4 an LBW; 4, Laxman=Stuck in the crease and late in geting his bat down thus getting pinned; 5, Tendulka=Also stuck in the crease and playing 4 away swing to a straight Steyn delivery; 5, Raina=Well, as tentative a push as a high school kid on debut 4 his u/12 team; 6,Dhoni=Too far across his off stump thus getting pinned; 7,Bhaji=Brilliant work from Boucher, but why risk the 3rd run? 8,Sharma=Pushing aimlessly at a rising delivery; Sreesanth=Well, cant expect much from a no10 but also driving loosely with a bottom hand 2 cover. Unadkat=the Only man who showed up 4 the day, he was the last man standing after all. Ind bated teribly; no excuse

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2010, 7:26 GMT

    There is absolutely no need for any dicussions beyond what I am saying here. Yes, it's because of Virender Sehwag's one shot made India in to this pathetic situation and The Team India is in No.1 position just because of Viru's destructive kind of innings. When he makes the inroads the others flourish and if not, they feel the pressure. So, everything regarding Viru's factor is definitely a matter in Indian cricket. Jaffar Sadiq, Bahrain.

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