Vijay turns the leave in to a scoring shot
When Virender Sehwag walked out to bat on Boxing Day, after yet another lost toss, and with a new, inexperienced opening partner, he saw M Vijay run past him and towards the pitch. Sehwag walked to the pitch, had a little chat, and decided to take strike to the first ball. When Gautam Gambhir is with him, or even when Vijay is opening on friendlier tracks, Sehwag always prefers for the other man to take first strike. His responsibility today was rewarded with a stinging first ball that hit his hand.
It's always said that to do well in South Africa, you need to leave the ball alone well. Vijay took that to the next level today. Twice he meant to leave the ball alone, twice he found that it hit the middle of his bat even as he was pulling it out of the way. One of them went along the ground towards the slips cordon, and the other one, became an immaculate steer through it. All along the ground. Four runs.
After straight-driving Dale Steyn for a four, VVS Laxman did something he has done only five times in his career: hit a six. What a shot it was. Steyn bowled short, Laxman seemed to have enough time to set up for the pull, and he sent it careening - flat - over the square-leg boundary. His other sixes have come off Brighton Watambwa of Zimbabwe in 2001, Shaun Pollock in 2001-02, Paul Wiseman in 2003-04, and Danish Kaneria in 2004-05.
The catch and the consequent look
You have played three Tests, have never taken a catch, your team-mates think - jokingly - that you "can tend to fall asleep" in the field. And what do you do? You pull off a stunner at straight midwicket to remove the best-looking batsman on the day. Lonwabo Tsotsobe, take a bow. When Laxman pulled Steyn again after that six, it looked like it was going for four until Tsotsobe went full-stretch and low to his right - his unnatural side - and plucked it inches off the ground. Laxman's disbelieving look - reminiscent of his look when Mark Waugh pulled off a stunner in Chennai in 2000-01, at the same position - said it all. If that look didn't didn't say it all, Steyn, who took four wickets today, added more: "I actually took only three wickets, that wicket was his [Tsotsobe's]."
When it had finished drizzling in the morning, with time still left before the start of play, Mike Haysman of SuperSport went out to do the pitch report. Midway through his report, it started drizzling again, and you could see the groundstaff itching to rush in and put the covers back in their rightful place. However, they had to wait for the pitch report to finish. Thankfully, it was not hard rain.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo