South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 3rd day December 28, 2010

South Africa take confidence from Perth chase

The memory of their 414-run chase against Australia at the WACA in 2008, will make South Africa confident they can get the 303 they need to beat India in Durban

If South Africa succeed in making the 303 they need against India in Durban, it will be only the third time in their history that they would have chased a target over 280 in a Test match at home. The two previous occasions were a dead rubber against Australia in 2002, and a match against England all the way back in 1906. The memories of Perth 2008, where they were involved in the second-highest successful chase in Test history will be spurring them on as they attempt to earn a series win over the world's No.1 ranked Test side.

Paul Harris recalled the situation in Australia a little over two years ago, when South Africa had to chase 414 at the WACA. "We look back to the Test match we played in Perth and AB [de Villiers] was in overnight with Jacques [Kallis]," Harris said. "This is quite a similar situation. We've done it before and there's no reason why we can't do it again."

Self-belief was the one element that South Africa were determined to use in their second innings, especially because it failed them in their first. That was evident when captain Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen strode to the crease in search of 303, a target that was 40 runs more than the ideal 260 de Villiers identified on Monday. Smith ripped his bunny-ears off in emphatic fashion and tore into his nemesis, Zaheer Khan, who he eliminated from the attack after just three overs.

As Smith made progress against Zaheer, the India bowlers didn't seem to know what to do and ended up serving him some tasty deliveries on leg. He looked certain to continue in an attacking vein before he was riled up by Sreesanth, who first hit him on the hand and then shared a few words. That seemed to cause a rush of blood and a needless shot from Smith.

As soon as he went, the tone of the game changed. Harris said that tended to happen when Smith departed. "For the team, it's a big dismissal whenever Graeme gets out. He is a key performer, he averages 50+ in test cricket, and he's our captain. After his dismissal the runs dried up a bit."

Smith departed just before tea and when Hashim Amla came back after the break with Petersen, someone had pressed the pause button on the South Africa innings.

Petersen was undone by extra bounce from Harbhajan Singh and Amla played a poor shot as his record at his home venue remained miserable. With those three quick wickets, South Africa's psyche had been damaged and Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers approached the situation tentatively. Kallis is known for starting slowly and may blossom on Wednesday morning, while de Villiers will need to a bit of thinking about how he is going to approach Harbhajan, who gave him some problems late in the day.

Harbhajan, who South Africa struggled to cope with in their first outing, will be a key man in the second, particularly because of the bounce on offer. The bounce was the reason Harris singled out for the success bowlers have had in the Test so far, and he said it would help Harbhajan as well. "There's been a bit of swing floating around, but it hasn't done much off the deck. We expected it to bounce but not as much as it has. That's the reason batsmen have played a few more shots than they necessarily had to. There is a bit of turn, but it's more bounce. Harbhajan used it well in the first innings."

Both the batsmen at the crease enjoy playing their shots and Harris stressed the importance of staying patient in order to get value for shots. "The wicket has quickened up a bit, which is helping strokeplay, and it's got a bit better than it was." There will still be something in it for the bowlers, especially with the overcast conditions and light rain that has been forecast, but for South Africa, it will be essential not to get bogged down into making the wrong shot selection, something that has dominated the dismissals in this match.

More than a test of ability, batting on the Kingsmead pitch is going to be a test of mental strength and it is already evident that South Africa have their mindset pinned on positivity. With the three highest partnerships of the match all scored on day three, they will be aware that conditions are getting easier and partnerships are becoming easier to build. "All we need is one partnership really and we'll have the game in the bag. We need to work hard in the morning session for that."

South Africa have been criticised for wilting under pressure in major ODI tournaments, but Harris feels that, in Test cricket, their record of performing in tight situations, such as Perth, will see them through. "Whenever we've had crunch situations in Test cricket, 99% of the time we have come out on top." It may not be accurate, but it's a firm statement of how South Africa want to make sure the tag beginning with the letters "ch" does not get pinned to them in Test cricket as well.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kartheek on December 30, 2010, 3:21 GMT

    Come on India Rock ON................eagerly looking forward for 3rd test at capetown

  • Dummy4 on December 29, 2010, 20:03 GMT

    Hi cricketisagame, I didn't say we have the best bowling line up in the world, just nowhere near as bad as Australia, which has to be the worst in the last few years. On such a hostile pitch, chasing 300 is mighty difficult and hence I thought taking inspiration from that Perth win is not fair given the difference in the bowling strengths.That was my point. Hope you wont disagree on that!!

  • Deepak on December 29, 2010, 12:38 GMT

    Chasing 300 plus runs in the 4th Inning requires tremendous Mental Strength for the batting side. To contain the runs it requires Alert Fielding for the bowling side. India's win today was testimony to that. Once Kallis got out, SA lost the Mental Strength to win, and played defensively in a "Not-to-lose" mode. While India chased down every ball to prevent boundaries, and did not drop a single catch. The 3rd Test now becomes the real test, with both sides getting a better understanding each others strengths and weaknesses.

  • Dummy4 on December 29, 2010, 11:23 GMT

    Expecting to do a PERTH is not bad, bt jus nt gud enuf against INDIANS..... becoz e1 b4 u thout v INDIANS had conquered PERTH and tht too amidst of controversial series....

  • Dummy4 on December 29, 2010, 11:02 GMT

    @suresh_sksj FYI BCCI has got nothing to do with this. Cricket SA has given broadcast rights to Zee (Ten Cricket) and it is Zee which is messing up the broadcast. Stop whining... and do stay on topic. This match is getting interesting by the minute

  • Baskar on December 29, 2010, 10:58 GMT

    Heavy roller used at the start of the second inning helped Smith in his assault. There is no point wasting a good bowler on a temporarily flat track. Except it got worse sooner with a couple of cracks, one of which undid Kallis. But I dont expect those who specialize in prose like the writer of this article to understand such nuances of cricket.

  • Suresh on December 29, 2010, 9:17 GMT

    It's great to watch 2 good teams fight it out in the middle, I am in India and TenCricket is carrying the tele. I agree that some amount of commercial is needed, but showing commercials all around the batsman, between each ball, showing the commercial by cutting off the signal before 6th ball of the over reaches the batsman, then missing the 1st ball of the over……these cruel torture is making the game all the more lost in the wild…..wish ICC can do something on this…..guess BCCI is more keen on making more $$$ than making the game pleasant for the eyes of the viewers….IT'S MORE OF AN EYE SORE WATCHING IT ON TV THAN ENJOYING IT

  • karthik on December 29, 2010, 9:03 GMT must be thankful to SA fo trying to make a match of it...India is far ahead of SA in skills

  • JustOUT on December 29, 2010, 8:50 GMT

    Looks like BCCI is playing here. 2 wrong LBWs, 5 balls over.. oh no, such a disgust in winning. SA can gift this win to India.

  • Srinivasan on December 29, 2010, 8:22 GMT

    this test match is as good as pendulum. may the best team win.

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