South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 1st day December 26, 2010

'Anything above 250 a good score' - Laxman

Just one cursory look at the scorecard is enough to leave India disappointed. And no, it's not the final score of 183 for 6 that they will rue that much. The genesis of their regret lies in individual scores. On a day that perhaps every batsman applied himself better than he did in similar - if not slightly less testing - conditions in Centurion, not one batsman fell for a single-figure score, and yet nobody crossed 38.

It could be a positive sign for them too, in that the conditions seem to be such that nobody can ever feel settled in here, but it will be premature to arrive at that conclusion. Legend has it that when the sun beats down on the Kingsmead pitch, it becomes a flat belter. Going by how South Africa have got every small thing right at the right moments over the six days of this series - the bowling, the batting, the freak catches, the tosses - who will bet against a gloriously sunny day when their turn to bat comes? Which is why, although India are one handy partnership away from what seems a par score in day-one conditions, VVS Laxman, who looked in as much control as was possible with the ball seaming around, was left dissatisfied.

"The bowlers are always going to be in with a chance because this is one of those wickets," Laxman said. "Having said that, it would have been ideal if one of the batsmen had carried on and remained unbeaten on 60 or 70 at the end of the day. All of us got starts but were not able to convert that into a big score. That was a bit disappointing."

Laxman suggested that the pitch, in terms of bounce and pace, was truer, but he didn't expect it to flatten out as the one in Centurion did. "The wicket here is much quicker and the bounce is also more. The Centurion wicket was soft and slow. I think the conditions will remain the same at least for three days here. In Centurion, because of the heat, the wicket really eased out."

The conditions, though, are not in India's hands. Nor is the toss for that matter. India have now won just one out of their last 15, and Laxman admitted it would have been a good toss to win. "When you're playing international cricket you have to take whatever challenge comes your way. It would have been great to have bowled first on this wicket. But the toss is something you cannot control."

Every batsman in the top order showed the restraint and application to face up to the challenge in front of him, but they all found ways to not convert those starts. India could certainly have avoided giving Lonwabo Tsotsobe his two wickets. Sachin Tendulkar and Cheteshwar Pujara made mistakes on the day. Tendulkar pushed away from the body without intent, and Pujara hooked unconvincingly. Laxman, who was out to an incredible catch that Tsotsobe produced at straight midwicket, said the quick wickets of Rahul Dravid and him were a turning point. .

"It would have been ideal [to have lost two wickets fewer], Rahul and I were out in quick succession. It was important that both of us carried on our partnership. That would have put a lot of pressure on the South African bowlers and the team.

"I think how we start tomorrow will be very important. Anything above 250 will be a good score, assuming the conditions remain the same."

Laxman said he had enough confidence in the lower order to take them to a fighting total. "I'm sure they will give their best, because, as I've always mentioned, they take a lot of pride in their batting. Over the years, all of them have delivered for as at the right moment - as recently as the New Zealand series where Bhaji made two brilliant centuries and put us right on top. I'm sure the lower order will contribute, work really hard and not throw away their wickets."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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