The defiant bail and Paul Harris' multi-talented fingers
The immoveable object
Dale Steyn and Graeme Smith couldn't believe the umpire didn't think there was an edge. It was a perfect delivery to Harbhajan Singh, pitching around leg, moving away appreciably, but it missed the first bit of wood that came its way by a fair distance. However, after beating the bat, it hit the off stump, which moved back a little but refused to let go of the bail. The woody sound convinced South Africa of the edge, but Umpire Ian Gould saw it like a hawk and didn't go just by the sound. The fielders and the bowlers protested unsubtly, but the replays revealed a perfect call from the umpire.
The one-end job
The first hour of the morning was a severe examination for Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir. More so for Tendulkar, who had to face a testing spell of outswing. It would have been frustrating for Steyn, though, that he didn't get to bowl even one ball at Gambhir in that spell. Tendulkar blocked his end up, and Gambhir blocked Morkel's. It took India 73 balls in the morning to turn the strike over, when Tendulkar worked Lonwabo Tsotsobe through midwicket. The 36 runs before that all came in fours and twos.
The crowd often ribs Paul Harris for the lack of turn when he bowls spin, but today his fingers were on fire. One delivery turned and kicked from outside off to follow Gambhir's attempt at leaving it and hit the handle of the bat. It was too tough a chance for Mark Boucher, but that delivery was enough to create doubt in the mind of the man batting on 93. Gambhir played the next ball for turn, and ended up with an outside edge. How one delivery can change perceptions formed over years of hard work.
Further proof that the Harris fingers were on fire came when he deflected a scorching hit from Tendulkar onto the stumps at the non-striker's end, catching a backing-up VVS Laxman short. And Laxman reacted typically, a touch of disbelief at the injustice on his face, and the hands almost on his hips. If there was any consolation, Harris had to receive treatment on the bleeding finger.
Perfect deliveries were not in short supply from Steyn, but perfect appeals were. The second ball of the day should have got him Tendulkar's wicket, but the edge was so faint that he didn't even seemed to have heard it, and hence was late in the appeal. Who could blame the umpire when the bowler himself wasn't that convinced?
The January 4 Tendulkar-Harbhajan show
Exactly three years ago, to the day, in another city in the Southern Hemisphere, India found themselves in trouble. Then, in Sydney, Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh added 129 for the eighth wicket to take India past Australia's 463. Today, with four wickets gone for 43 runs, South Africa were into the tail and looking at a sizeable lead. Tendulkar and Harbhajan, however, repeated the rescue work from three years ago, to add 76 for the seventh wicket, and give India some control of the game.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo