Harbhajan says the pitch has runs in it
Harbhajan Singh, the India offspinner, said he enjoyed the bounce that he got out of the Kingsmead pitch but it also took precise bowling in fast-scoring conditions to succeed as a bowler. He returned 4 for 10 in 7.2 overs, his seventh-best figures outside India.
"There is extra bounce, but you still need to be very sure of your length," Harbhajan said. "Anything slightly short or slightly full can go for runs, at least for a spinner. Fast bowlers need to make the batsmen come forward. That really brings them into the game. But spinners can go for runs because the boundaries are small, and with the good bounce batsmen can connect well."
The major contribution from Harbhajan was Hashim Amla's wicket. Along with VVS Laxman, Amla has looked the most comfortable batsman in this low-scoring game, and Harbhajan said, even though eventually 18 wickets fell on the second day, things were looking hard for the bowlers when Amla was at the wicket. "There's nothing wrong with the wicket, it's still a good one. If you bowl in the right areas, there is a little bit of extra bounce but no lateral movement. The bowlers have a chance to get wickets, but the way Hashim was going, batting was looking simple. It's the kind of wicket where if a batsman gets in, he needs to make full use of it. I don't know how 18 wickets fell in a day on this wicket."
Harbhajan's second wicket was special for a couple of reasons: it got Rahul Dravid his 200th Test catch, and his 50th off Harbhajan's bowling. "He took a brilliant catch but it would have been nice to see him still batting at stumps, but unfortunately he's not there."
India did have a disappointing spell where they lost four quick wickets after bowling South Africa out for 131, one of whom was Dravid, but to their relief VVS Laxman and Cheteshwar Pujara batted out close to the last one-and-a-half hours, and Harbhajan said those two would be crucial in setting South Africa a competitive target. "There's still a lot of cricket left. We don't want to be complacent. We want to bat well tomorrow. Hopefully Laxman and Pujara can bat a long time and get a lot of runs on the board, and then we'll take it from there. We need to make sure we score more than 300 to give ourselves a good chance."
Harbhajan was pleased with how Pujara batted, playing only his second Test. "He showed great character to stick it out and let us know he wants to be a player who can be counted on. He practises very hard, and is a gutsy player; he's not worried about the bounce or the pace or anything. I hope he can convert all the domestic runs he's scored into international success."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo