South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 2nd day December 27, 2010

SA's failure to adapt costs them dear

South Africa's failure to adapt their approach to the unexpected threat posed by India's bowlers led to their collapse in the first innings

When South Africa took to the field for the second time in two days, there was something markedly different about them. For the first nine overs, they walked around like the zombies out of the Night of the Living Dead movie. They appeared shell-shocked, well and truly bewildered that on day two they found themselves bowling again.

Even though South Africa had been saying all the right things about expecting India to put up a fight, the knockout punch that the Indian attack dealt them came as a complete surprise. Although South Africa insisted that they respected India and understood the quality of their opposition, they didn't expect that quality to unleash itself in the way it did - through the Indian bowlers.

Graeme Smith, after the first Test in Centurion, stopped just short of saying that he thought India would not be able to take 20 wickets against South Africa. He was asked if he thought the Indian attack was capable of bowling South Africa out twice. This was his answer: "I'd love to say no, but no one wants to touch the money."

Everything about Smith's expression and body language as he spoke showed he didn't believe that India's bowlers could be much of a threat. Today, they didn't even have to take 20 wickets, it was the ten they skittled for 131 runs that shook South Africa's usually solid line-up to its core and exposed one of the team's biggest weaknesses: the inability to regroup once their plans have been bent out of shape by something that is not in their control.

Matters became tense when Smith dutifully put on his bunny ears and fell to Zaheer Khan and the anxiety levels rose when Alviro Petersen was dismissed. But it was when bad luck struck and Jacques Kallis was run out at the non-strikers end by Ishant Sharma that plans started disintegrating. Eight balls later de Villiers fell victim to a peach of a delivery from Sreesanth, a ball he could do nothing about, but it was a sign to South Africa to start taking the Indian threat more seriously.

They didn't seem to do that and when Harbhajan Singh came on to bowl, any strategy South Africa may have had rolled away from them like a Turkish carpet. South Africa targeted Singh successfully in the first Test. Smith even had a little dig at him in the post-match press conference. The South Africa captain was smug in his statement that Paul Harris had had more of an impact than Harbhajan, and performed better throughout the game. His statement may have been accurate, but the manner in which he delivered his observation suggested disdain for Harbhajan.

South Africa may have thought that the Turbanator would be ineffective on this tour but he proved them wrong in emphatic fashion. Hashim Amla, who is traditionally strong on the leg side, and had faced Harbhajan many times before, played the sweep shot to a delivery that held its line and went straight on. He was given out lbw and initially it looked as though he was unlucky but replays showed that the ball would have gone on to hit middle and leg stump.

Harbhajan's next two wickets came from outrageous catches. First, Rahul Dravid took his 200th catch with an impeccably timed dive to his left at slip to dismiss Dale Steyn and then Cheteshwar Pujara anticipated well at short leg to send Harris on his way. Harbhajan's wizardry had not been completely exhausted and he took a stunner of a catch himself on the fine-leg boundary to hand Ishant Sharma a wicket. It was those improbable chances that India latched onto that would have stunned South Africa, who were not expecting such a committed display from the visitors.

It may be easier for South Africa to blame it on their Durban jinx. Kingsmead has been a particularly problematic venue, where South Africa have been bowled out in the 130s in three consecutive seasons. In the 2009-10 edition, they were bundled out for 133 in the second innings against England to lose by an innings and 98 runs. Graeme Swann was the chief destroyer then, taking 5 for 54 in that innings and nine wickets in the match. The season before, South Africa were all out for 138 against Australia. Mitchell Johnson did the bulk of the damage as he quite literally punctured South Africa's plans by breaking Smith's hand and smacking Kallis on the jaw, sending them both to hospital in the space of 16 overs.

Durban is becoming the hoodoo venue for the hosts but they can't blame it for the tailspin they find themselves in after their clinical approach failed. In Kolkata earlier this year, South Africa went from 218 for 2 to 296 all out after an attack from Khan and Harbhajan. It's not just in Durban where the batting struggles to adjust when the need arises. What Kolkata tells us is that South Africa need to have a more dynamic approach so that they can improvise when things aren't going according to plan.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Pratik on December 28, 2010, 9:05 GMT

    The way India is batting in their 2nd innings, SA's 1st innings failure will likely become irrelevant. With the wicket easing out, it will be easy enough to chase anything under 300. It is a bit unthinkable that the SA top order will play as carelessly as Sehwag, Sachin and even Dravid (2nd innings dismissal).

  • ashok on December 28, 2010, 7:47 GMT

    I think you need more luck in SA. when luck favours, your bowlers wither Bowl too well like SA bowling in 1st Test or they bowl too bad like SA bowling in 2nd test. But without a worldclass bowler like Steyn/Morne if india could win, its a great acheivement...

  • johnny on December 28, 2010, 7:43 GMT

    CHOKING, CHOKING, CHOKING - SA seems to be choking AGAIN! India came into the match short of match practice and SA got on top early. Now that it coming to securing the series, seems like the famous SA CHOKE is back! India may well let it slip as they are still making up for a lack of warm up matches (thanks to BCCI)!

  • Alex on December 28, 2010, 7:30 GMT

    It is not over yet. Still india can bowled out with lead of 200. Not good enough. tough to get SA below 200 twice. Unless Bhajji produces a miracle.

  • Tony on December 28, 2010, 7:24 GMT

    @stormy, I think that you are right in saying that SA were somewhat complacent and that they largely fell to poor shot selection (with the very unlucky exception of Kallis who was looking VERY good). My money is in SA though as I think that Kallis will come good in the second innings and Amla will not fall cheaply again

  • RAVI on December 28, 2010, 7:01 GMT

    Where are the Indian Bashers now? Why did the South Arficans fold up like 9 pins, on a bouncy wicket. They are supposed to be bred on these wickets. Does now Smith agree that they cant play Bhajji for nuts. Arrogance cost Australia. Look where is Australia. Arrogance will bring down fall of South Africa. Confidence is good, to say Indians cant take 20 wickets, cant face chin music, etc., If Smith and Co cant bat 2 full sessions, they also dont deserve to win. Anyway why are the World Champs in Chockers cribbing

  • Anver on December 28, 2010, 6:56 GMT

    Don't underestimate the Indian bowling unit my dear friend Smith..........after the inclusion of their premier bowler Zaheer India got that energy back in the bowling attack............

  • Dru on December 28, 2010, 6:09 GMT

    I think disrespect for the opposition cost SA more but the Ind bowled beautifully and held on to their catches and lets not brush that aside. The porblem with being over confident is it catches up with you in the form of preasure if things dont go your way and this goes for both teams and I think that was a factor for SA yesterday and will be when they bat again. I cannot beleive the shots Sewag, Sachin and Dravid played at that stage of the game and series - it was totally irresponsible. Ind can still make this their game if they get anything over 250 which I think will be tought to chase. I fail to undestand how the experts say there is nothing in the picth when 24 wickets have falled in two days so anything over 250 will be a good score and Ind dont have much to do to get there.

  • Neil on December 28, 2010, 5:53 GMT

    All credit to India for bowling and fielding superbly. This is what makes thi such a great game! Credit too to Zaheer, who must have felt the weight of expectation on him but delivered wonderfully. A bad day at the office for us SAns, but that happens in this game. I'm looking forwardto the today's play.

  • Anand on December 28, 2010, 5:45 GMT

    So now SA fans are saying that do not judge the SA performance by 1 innings :)))) .. and they criticism Indian batting and specially bawling based on 1 test :))) India looks bad when it comes to play on fast and bouncy pitch but its just it look. How they played for 205 it was good batting and awesome bawling performance. However we do respect SA team and i am sure they will fight back with bat so it will be a great contest... lets see how india bat today tilll lunch which will eventually define who will win this match .. for series if its draw india will prove that they can take on SA in SA quite good ..if they win there is nothing more to say to that .. but defiantly india wont loose the series ..

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