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For the first time, India were not beaten in a Test series in South Africa, but they also squandered their best opportunity to win
January 8, 2011
Will be disappointed mostly because he survived 10 overs on four occasions without converting any of those starts into a match-turning hundred. Also because he got himself out four out of the six times he was dismissed. Still far from being a mere subcontinent batsman though.
Many doubted his ability, for they hadn't seen him bat in South Africa, against the best new-ball bowlers in the world. Didn't run away from the challenge, fought it out in typical Gambhir fashion, scored three fifties in four innings, one of them to eat up four-and-a-half hours when South Africa were pushing for a win on the last day.
It would have been too much to ask of a replacement opener to come in and make an impact in the testing conditions of Durban. Still made South Africa work for his wicket.
Didn't score a half-century. Brought up his 200th catch with a beauty. Each time he batted well - and he did, despite what scores say - a peach dismissed him. There were three poor dismissals too, when he chased wide deliveries or ran himself to doom.
Looked good for the next tour too. Started fourth straight year with a century, and how well he played for it, surviving the most dangerous spell of the series. There was a century in Centurion too, his 50th. Everybody thinks this is his last tour here, everybody is wondering why.
Magical, frustrating, frustrated. Charmed everybody with arguably the innings of the series, 96 with tail in Durban. While he fulfilled the team cause, he still left without a century in South Africa. Played poor shots in similar circumstances in Centurion.
Was out of his depth. Left the bat hanging outside off, and duly edged twice without bothering South Africa much. Duly played only one Test.
Fought harder than the rewards showed. Had his second-innings fight, 76 minutes in fading light, approved by Laxman. Got an unplayable one from Dale Steyn in Cape Town. Will have loved a fifty from three attempts, but India will settle for the promise he showed. His close catching was special too.
He was stable. Counterattacked in the second innings in Centurion, regaining the spark with the bat. Was good with the gloves, calm as a leader, but not great with field placements. Criticising Sreesanth in the press seemed unlike Dhoni.
He loved the bounce. Followed up a good New Zealand tour with another to a country where seam bowlers usually enjoy more. Was India's leading wicket-taker. Fought hard with the bat in hand.
Provided the spark and was the turning point for India. Defending a small total, he took out South Africa's openers early in Durban, giving his team much-needed confidence. His predator-prey relationship with Smith helped.
Went from mercurial to messy. Had trouble with over-rates and crowds, but bowled the three best deliveries by any Indian on the trip. At crucial junctures. AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince will testify.
Never got going. Struggled with no-balls, lack of pace and movement. The odd good spell didn't translate into a turn of fortunes.
Was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Should have been playing Ranji Trophy, where he has played only four times, as opposed to replacing Zaheer in the first match of a big series.
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