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

Steyn provides bowling master class

The Kingsmead pitch was as green as advertised and Dale Steyn took full advantage with some high-class swing bowling
59

When the covers came off the Kingsmead pitch early this morning, bowlers the world over would have felt like many men do on their wedding day: the world's most beautiful bride had been unveiled. It was as green as it was talked up to be, almost living up to that legend about the only difference between the Durban pitch and outfield being the painted lines. With gloomy overhead conditions that appeared to have made themselves comfortable for at least a day, it was a bowler's paradise. We'd seen this movie before. Ten days ago. In Centurion.

The psychological mind- games reached their climax when Allan Donald said the pitch looked "exactly the same" as the one on which India were shot out for 66 and 100 in 1996. "Exactly" is probably an exaggeration, but it was a surface that the South Africa bowlers would have relished bowling on and the India batsmen would have felt jittery batting on, especially with memories of Morne Morkel's SuperSport Park destruction fresh in their minds. It wasn't Morkel who would be a worry this time, though.

Durban is known for swing and Dale Steyn's arrived like the 1960s. He showed his ability to move the ball away from the first over and exploited the conditions to his advantage. "We had big bounce and a little bit of movement off the seam," Steyn said at the end-of-day press conference.

At the other end, Morne Morkel, with height on his side, was trying to produce something similar to what he did in Centurion, but had no success this time around. While the short ball comes quite naturally to him and has earned him much success, he wasted it today. He used it too often and didn't execute his follow-ups with the same strategic smartness as he did in Centurion. When Sehwag hit him for four off a fuller ball, Morkel returned to the short ball in defence. His line was questionable, on off stump, or just outside and his first spell was aborted after three overs. Things didn't improve when he returned, and he bowled an over in which M Vijay did not have to play at a single ball.

The bowling at the Old Fort Road end remained gentle and while Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe were posing little threat, Steyn was following the gospel Graeme Smith had preached earlier in the week. Smith emphasised the importance of bowling well, even if conditions are favourable. He went as far as to say that the pressure is greater on the bowlers to perform well when the pitch offers them something.

"Everybody is expecting wickets and we knew something would happen," Steyn said. He usually bowls an opening spell of five or six overs, but he knew patience would pay off and insisted on bowling an extended spell. "I always knew there was a wicket just around the corner. I kept saying to Graeme saying one more, one more." It was during one of the "one more" overs, that he dismissed Virender Sehwag, with slight away movement. Steyn kept begging. His next over went wicket-less, but then another "one more" and Vijay, who had left so well, poked at one. The wickets came at crucial times, just when South Africa may have started to worry about wasting the new ball.

Tsotsobe got Sachin Tendulkar to poke at a wide one in the first over after lunch, but Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman came together to steady India and it was up to Steyn to intervene again. Dravid received a beautiful ball, bouncing steeply and moving away a touch, although it was the bounce more than the movement that got Dravid out. Steyn's movement was the highlight of his bounce and he admitted that it was the right tool to bring out on this occasion. "I'm very lucky that I can get the ball to do that. I don't try and do it all the time. You have to be able to do it on certain days. If it doesn't work you going to get clipped through midwicket and sent to the leg-side boundary. You don't want to be a hero every ball."

Steyn was certainly was not the hero for his fourth wicket, Tsotsobe was. An outrageous dive to his right at midwicket saw him snatch Laxman's pull out of the air. 'It was unbelievable," Steyn said. "I only got three wickets today and he got a great catch. He can fall asleep sometimes in the field but that was unbelievable. I am actually pretty jealous of that catch."

Tsotsobe came into this match under pressure to keep his place, although with Wayne Parnell having contracted chicken pox, it now seems as though Tsotsobe would have played no matter what. He was fairly mediocre up front, barely hovering around the 130kph mark and showing a desperate need for some more pace. Although he was pinpointed as the weak link, Steyn denied this. "I thought he bowled nicely at SuperSport Park."

Tsotsobe captured the scalp of Tendulkar and also picked up the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara late in the day, which went a long way towards backing up his selection. "He got another opportunity today and he's proved that he can bowl," Steyn said. "He is definitely somebody who is going to be around this team for a long time."

Steyn said that Tsotsobe should be open to learning from everyone, as he became about 18 months ago. "Before, I thought I could do things on my own and let my own skills take over. But it's a team sport, and if you can take in as much information as you can and listen to the guys around you that have been around for 150 matches, that can make a difference in your career."

India still have four wickets in hand and Steyn has stressed the importance of focusing on knocking them over. "We will treat their bowlers like we treat their top-order batters. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JackBastin on December 27, 2010, 11:55 GMT

    I'm sure now, the SA fans know what happens when both teams have assistance from the pitch and conditions. No one was giving excuses after the first match loss. India lost the toss and that made a big difference. they were unlucky again in the second match. But, boy didn't their bowlers bring them back into the game??? This is test cricket. You'll have one team doing good and one team not doing so good. Look at the Ashes.. The momentum is swinging like a pendulum. The OZ must be way behind. But the match is not over yet.

  • JackBastin on December 27, 2010, 11:55 GMT

    I'm sure now, the SA fans know what happens when both teams have assistance from the pitch and conditions. No one was giving excuses after the first match loss. India lost the toss and that made a big difference. they were unlucky again in the second match. But, boy didn't their bowlers bring them back into the game??? This is test cricket. You'll have one team doing good and one team not doing so good. Look at the Ashes.. The momentum is swinging like a pendulum. The OZ must be way behind. But the match is not over yet.

  • Gizza on December 27, 2010, 11:45 GMT

    @anshu.sunny, Srinath was an overrated joke. I remember watching him bowl with my Aussie friends and is was so embarrassing to see him huff and puff at the age of 30. He got a lot of wickets for the same reason why Harbhajan has a lot of wickets - they've played so many matches.

    Meat isn't just needed for strength and whatnot. Just as vegetarian advocates in India and elsewhere use this reason to support their beliefs, eating animals make act like an animal. And though cricket may be a gentleman's game, the greatest fast bowlers in cricket have always been a little bit evil, a little bit violent, wanting to see blood on the batsman. Most other sports also require this hence why the country that gave birth to the Buddha and Gandhi struggles to compete on the world stage in these sports (and specifically in cricket, the pure fast bowling discipline).

  • JackBastin on December 27, 2010, 11:41 GMT

    ha ha ha... all of you who said SA batting is better. Take a look at the scorecard at the end of Day 2. If India lose from here I will definitely agree that SA is better than India. Well. Keep dreaming....

  • kamiccolo on December 27, 2010, 11:05 GMT

    74/4 now maybe, however India's nemesis Amla is still there and Prince hasnt really had much to do over the last few months, so it is more than likely that he will perform, by the end of day 3 South Africa will be back in the pound seat

  • anshu.sunny on December 27, 2010, 10:37 GMT

    lol at the people who talk about meat diet etc..the fastest indian bowler Srinath is a die hard veggie..brahmin too..lol ..at these so called online cricket experts

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2010, 10:35 GMT

    Moreover I feel Dhoni should start practicing on how to win toss in nets :), that will help at least India draw the series with South Africa. I dont blame Indian batsmen, the conditions they bat 1st innings in bot test was favoring the bowlers and lets not take the credit from Steyn and Morkel. But Poojara and few other batsmen didnt had the patience. Otherwise we would have crossed the 250+ and that should have been good score to defend.

  • anshu.sunny on December 27, 2010, 10:34 GMT

    The basic issue..is this..a huge majority of people here posting are blind India haters..why would Pakistanis or Srilankans would come to make fun of Indian team???

    most of these people will either ignore SA being 74/4 now or will call this as one off thing..but they conveniently forgot India had to face a fit SA strike bowling pair in first test as well as here..that to in conditions tailor made fr fast bowlers...n no Zak.

    In good bowling conditions...batting sides have been blown away routinely from the time cricket has been played...a case in point recent series all around the world... With the leader of the pack Back..now SA are the ones with their back against the wall..

  • kamiccolo on December 27, 2010, 10:33 GMT

    South Africa do not perform as badly in India as India does in South Africa. The last few series India have had to play catchup in their own country

  • anshu.sunny on December 27, 2010, 10:09 GMT

    now will these India haters go hide behind their nannies..:P

  • No featured comments at the moment.