South Africa v India, only Twenty20, Durban January 9, 2011

Unlikely pair shine brightest


Neither Rohit Sharma nor Morne van Wyk were supposed to be here. Yet both of them shone on Makhaya Ntini's big day, his farewell.

Rohit was a last-minute addition to the Indian touring party after Virender Sehwag was forced to miss the ODIs as a precautionary measure for his dodgy shoulder. Still, Rohit would have only been a back-up man had not a bruised, battered, but successful Gautam Gambhir not left for India. van Wyk only came in because Graeme Smith had another hand injury to tend to.

However, the two adjusted the best to the slow and low conditions at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, scoring fine fifties in front of the biggest crowd gathered to see cricket in South Africa.

Rohit did much as he does in Twenty20s. He didn't look to hit the ball too hard, waiting for it to arrive and then lofting it square or straight. His driving on the slow track stood out. His knock set up India's innings, after which Suresh Raina provided the important runs in the final few overs. If signs were to be looked for, these can't be bad for a man trying to force his way back into the national side.

"It was important to start on a good note," Rohit said after the game. "And I am thankful it came off at the right time. I will take every opportunity as it comes. I do not want to put pressure on myself. I have played the IPL here before, and know the conditions here. The wicket was on the slower side. I took my time knowing that we had a good batting line-up."

For the 31-year-old van Wyk, who seems destined to end up a journeyman cricketer, this was an even bigger opportunity. He grabbed it with both hands, running back from mid-off and then diving nearly to a full stretch to remove M Vijay. Then came his batting.

van Wyk is an interesting batsman with an interesting back lift. The bat reaches his ear as he waits for the ball, and the face is always open, showing the maker's name to the point fieldsmen. By the time it comes down, though, the bat is straight, and there is no problem in closing its face too. As he demonstrated to Munaf Patel, hitting him over midwicket, through point and over mid-on in the same over. Munaf seemd to be at the wrong end of van Wyk today: when he came back for another spell, he found van Wyk flicking him over long leg and squeezing a yorker between the two point fieldsmen.

By the time van Wyk got out for 67, South Africa had scored only 92, showing how he was the only man who adjusted well to the conditions. "Definitely, when Morne was going pretty well for us, we were up with the rate, ahead of it actually," South African captain Johan Botha said. "But as soon as the rate went high, it was difficult to come back. We can't expect Nos 8, 9, 10 and 11 to get more than 10 an over in the end."

Two men least likely to make an impact in the limited-overs leg of the tour a week ago have made the most impact in the first game. It will be interesting to see if they can carry it into the ODIs.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bt on January 12, 2011, 0:52 GMT

    SA team should learn from India. You don't play Hashim Amla in T20.. Its like playing Dravid in T20.. His average is 17 something and with strike rate of 100. Common no player with strike rate less than 120 should be selected.

  • shashank on January 10, 2011, 16:00 GMT

    well i certainly agree with u varun..there's no doubt abt test cric is the ultimate test.ipl is one of the reasons why ppl ve got a false notion abt cricket.u dont test anything in a player in a 20ovr format.just take the example of raina itself..could not handle the pace and bounce in a test match and got out in a poor manner in both the innings at centurion.On the contrary he excelled in the ipl in the same country in 2009 where there was hardly any pressure exerted by the bowlers....

  • Anil on January 10, 2011, 12:01 GMT

    Well.. got a good start and IND ended up atleast 30run behind, anyway and some how they manage to get it on. Here should be: Yuvi shown more dedication or you might be a looser very soon. Nehra and Munaf are not suited for 20format which they proved so many times and I can't understand why they picked often. Ideal sub. for these two are Tiwary and Irfan. Ofcourse Vijay filled slot of Veeru but if he come back and fill with the subs. make a 2011 T20 winners.

  • Summer on January 10, 2011, 11:06 GMT

    Lol ! I enjoyed the match. Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to make an announcement .. Pay Attention please..... The award for the Worst Pitch goes to 'whatever it's name is' (I don't know. ) ..though the stadium was the most beautiful one I have ever seen :) ! I was flattered.

  • Dummy4 on January 10, 2011, 11:04 GMT

    A really good and fitting farewell Makhaya Ntini. He really deserves what he got. He is one of those cricketers who will be remembered not only for his abilities with the ball but more for his character and the atmosphere to which ever team he played. He is a great man!!!!!!!!

    Now coming to the match. I thought it was a really good match. A lot of positives to come out from the game for India. Rohit Sharma set the tone upfront after we lost Murali Vijay quite ealy. Its was hartening to see that Suresh Raina was in good shape mentally after a sequence of poor scores in Test Cricket.

    All in alll a really good warm up for the one-day series!!!!!!!!

  • ugandhar on January 10, 2011, 10:36 GMT

    one of the damp pitches i have seen in recent times... bekar match!!!

  • RadhaKrishna on January 10, 2011, 8:46 GMT

    if sl can beat oz, then ours can win in rsa

  • Cliffontong on January 10, 2011, 8:11 GMT

    What an incredibly pointless game of cricket. It shouldn't have been an official match. Neither team fielded proper sides. Hell SA had Ntini bowl 4 useless overs of medium pace nothing. I reckon they should have opened with Donald and Ntini and and Ravi Shastri should have faced the 1st ball. And the pitch.... the less said the better. Can't believe I wasted my afternoon watching it.

  • Dummy4 on January 10, 2011, 7:29 GMT

    a very gud confidence booster 4 team India , well played Rohit, all others too. But i wun like 2 mention 1 more thing here . 20 ovr (120 balls)- chances of 120 thing to happen, for both innings 240. 5 days 90 ovr each (1800 balls) - 1800 thing to happen on the field . Who the hell say 20 ovr cricket is more interesting than a test match ? Batsmen does not get a chance 2 showcase talent neither the bowler. no SRT/DS or Kallis/Bhajji duel . 1 chance bowling-batting is not enough. Moreover !5 sessions and 4 nites in between time review stratogy. Test cricket is real test of Technic , temprament, mental as well as physical strength. Is it there is 20 over match ? ....surely not. cross batted shots & slogging all the way... Is thats what we like to see as a fan of this great game ?....surely not . So for GOD sake come on young Generation support SRT, Kallis ,Steyn, Zaheer,Cook & many others who play test cricket, no T20s. and support the real test of character (test cricket). luv test crkt

  • Dummy4 on January 10, 2011, 6:58 GMT

    SA dont deserve to be number 2.... They should be number 8 alongwith kiwis if Dale Steyn (Shane Bond vice verca) is not there! Amen bahahaha...

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