South Africa v India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 1st day January 2, 2011

India pay for inconsistency

On a day when the quality of India's bowling swung as wildly as the weather fluctuated, the visitors failed to capitalise on a rare toss that was won by MS Dhoni

Like the weather in Cape Town today, the Indian bowling blew hot and cold, ranging from a start where the relationship between Zaheer Khan and Graeme Smith took another step towards the one between Shane Warne and Daryll Cullinan, to a spell of loose balls that allowed Hashim Amla to get away to a counterattacking start, to the inexplicable ploy of not trying to take wickets from Harbhajan Singh's end, to Sreesanth's two good spells in the evening without much reward. In the end, it will be fair to say that India didn't quite capitalise on having won only their second toss in 15 Tests, in conditions where after batting for 110 minutes, Hashim Amla said he would have preferred to be in the field. "The wicket had a lot in it. If you hit a decent length, there was a lot swing and a lot of nip. The ball did get a little wet, but it did quite a bit."

There was a fair bit good about India's bowling today: Zaheer's start, Ishant Sharma's control once Amla and Alviro Petersen threatened to get away, and Sreesanth's movement both ways even after the sun came out. However, the good things about India's bowling didn't quite come together. The drizzle breaks didn't quite help, in that they stalled the momentum, but the batsmen could complain just as much - if not more - about the breaks.

India's 2011 did get off to a great start, with Zaheer causing all sorts of trouble with the new ball, both from over and round the stumps. After the first drizzle break came a spate of overpitched deliveries, and Amla was off. "Just had a lot of bad balls, to be honest," Amla said. "There were quite a few full balls and I capitalised on them, and the momentum was kind of with me." It would have helped if Sreesanth had got off to a good start, but he was lazy by his own admission in the first over, and neutered Zaheer's work to an extent.

"I don't know. Every time you don't get into rhythm," Sreesanth said of his troubles with the first spells throughout this series. "The key is just to get that. I have been struggling a bit, more like I have been bowling well in patches. I want to be more consistent. I'm working on it. It's a learning process for me and I think I'm doing justice to my talent."

Time, though, was not going to wait for Sreesanth to get his rhythm right. As he said, "They were helpful conditions and if I could I would take this atmosphere all around. Those are the best conditions you could bowl in." Ishant then produced the breakthrough with Petersen's wicket, but Sreesanth and Zaheer continued to be loose. Soon after the second break, Amla got five boundaries in four overs without having to go looking for them.

Sreesanth somehow drew a top edge from Amla, and it was perhaps the slow over-rate that took India to Harbhajan. Moreover Zaheer had bowled 15 overs out of the 33 by then - some very good, a few ordinary - and would have needed a break. Harbhajan's economy-rate of close to three an over might suggest a good holding job, but a closer look tells a different story. Almost throughout his 18-over spell, he had a long-on in place, and 29 of the 56 runs off him came in singles. It had to be the over-rate that kept him on for that long, because there wasn't much help for him in the pitch. And when it came to keeping runs down, Ishant was more economical, but bowled two overs fewer on a day that was good for fast bowling. In terms of an attempt to take wickets, those 18 Harbhajan overs were a complete write-off, and it was a surprise that India didn't wait for a single hit over mid-on before sending the man out.

Sreesanth came back with two impressive spells, where he was almost always in the channels that made the batsmen play. He also got the ball to move both ways, beating the outside edge on numerous occasions and also getting inside edges onto the pads. In the first of those spells, he conceded just 11 in five overs for the wicket of AB de Villiers. The second spell of four overs, leading up to stumps, went for just five and was an equal examination for the batsmen. He will have days when he will bowl worse for more success, but there will also be days when bowling short and wide to Amla - as he did to get him out in Durban - will cost him boundaries all day long.

However, India still have a chance to make amends with the new ball becoming due early on the second morning. Sreesanth said he felt in good rhythm. Inda will need all of that, preferably in cohesion with some good bowling from the other end.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sriram on January 3, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    @ phoenixsteve -- if they can get to 500+ and also get the moon and the stars and everythin in between - yeah just like that... gawd - what do you guys think SA is! they will NEVER get 500 here and all that pride in bowling out India's "old" men will come crashing down... the SA batting lne up against the Indian's man to man is chalk and cheese and except for steyn SA have no consistent bowlers... even I can't wait to see the expression on your face when SA fielders are chasing leather

  • Anver on January 3, 2011, 7:40 GMT

    India won the important toss but couldn't take the fullest advantage of the condition.. Kallis is still there & if he stays then SA can target 350-400 runs.......will be a good score after been 32 for 2.........

  • Ram on January 3, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    Kallis was lucky to get off from a LBW shout. Those are part and parcel of the game. ICC to be blamed for not insisting BCCI to use UDRS. The same goes with India in last test in which Zaheer was plumb in front. But that was not given. Had two howlers against SA at Durban not gone in India's way, now India might have lost the series already by 2-0 Margiin and they might have played for pride alone.

  • Dru on January 3, 2011, 7:12 GMT

    I agree with the article - I think Bhaji was used in a defensive mode when attack was the call on that wicket and with seamers. Going in with 3 seamers is always going to be an issue but Zaheer and Sharma are young and should have bowled more and ZAK used more spairingly. In the end ZAK looked tired as you would be at his age after bowling nearly 20 overs! India bowled well but SA played well and showed the home advantage on knowing how to bat on this type of wicket. AB played a sub-continent shot to get out to a beatiful outswinger many of which Kallis left alone. Finally Dhoni had two slips for two long which showed lack of intent to attack on a wicket which required 3 slips most of the time. Having said all of that both sides have all to play for this morning which will decide what the SA first innings total will be.

  • Dinker on January 3, 2011, 7:02 GMT

    @Quaser-Sahil is an Indian name as well (just like you would find a lot of Imrans in Inida although non Asians may think this is is a Pakistani name)and Sahil Dutt a is from N india.does not have any international experience in his CV but yes,his commentary and comments are awesome and spot on.Now coming back to this match,always and Always Amla-Kallis axis has been pivotal to SA batting in this series especially since Smith is off colour.They have won the first day honours and regardlesss of what the locals think about the pitch (batsman friendly)if the over cast conditions remain it ill always offer something for bowlers.Indian bowlers infact bowled well really well at times and the term inconsistant sums up the effort.No need for them to get disappointed,they will have days like this when the bpwl well for not much reward.I think a scoe of 350 would be good on this track which SA semm sure to score now.May be we will see either side struggling to take 10th to 20th wickets on day4,5

  • MURUGAN on January 3, 2011, 6:40 GMT

    Kallis is sure to get his 38th ton today. ponting will be pushed to 3rd place very soon :-) can Kallis overtake Tendulkar?

  • Dharmendra on January 3, 2011, 5:59 GMT

    Like I said yesterday, It's a batting wicket at newlands , SA sure looks to get to 350-400 today or even 500 if Indian bowlers dont make new ball count.Kaliis is the key , they have to quickly get through him & expose not so good SA's tail (boucher included). Else the match could end up as high scoring draw unless much famed Indian batting lineup falters again. I guess , its going to be a run feast today.

  • Dummy4 on January 3, 2011, 5:31 GMT

    Guess Smith wouldn't complain so much, now that Kallis was lbw as shown by Hawk Eye but wasn't adjudged so ! Any matured captain, like Dhoni, would know that in cricket it evens out. So why behave like a sore loser?

  • raj on January 3, 2011, 5:25 GMT

    Although Indian bowlers bowled well in parts, they certainly did not bowl enough wicket taking deliveries. They is much the sameness about this Indian 'pace' attack - all medium pace stuff, hardly any bouncers bowled and all they look underdone! Although Zaheer is highly skillful and manages to get breaks for India, he looks so unfit - looks like he swallowed a hippo!! Watching him lumbering in his run-up to deliver his slow-medium stuff, you'd think that he would collapse before reaching the bowling crease. While Sreesanth and Ishant seem to be moving down to Zaheers pace!

  • sabtain on January 3, 2011, 4:31 GMT

    indian bowling is little bit ok on this wicket but credit goes to the pitch and weather

    imagine if AMIR,Asif would be there, ohhh, they will destroy SA or anyone

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