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India hand the match to South Africa on a platter. By Amit Varma
The South African team had been told by their cricket board before this match to treat it as unofficial. India had announced their intention to play it as an official Test. Yet, it was South Africa that rolled on methodically and relentlessly, while the Indians looked lacklustre and uninterested, and threw the match away with a quintessential combination of irresponsible batting and indisciplined bowling.
All the recognised batsmen played as if they would rather be in the pavilion, watching the news. They just did not seem interested in being out there in the middle; the only players who showed any resolve were Deep Dasgupta and Anil Kumble. Barring them and Rahul Dravid, who got a rough decision in the first innings and a peach of a delivery in the second, the rest just gave it away.
Tendulkar's second innings was a bizarre microcosm of India's performance. He played as if he was imitating Harbhajan Singh's batting at the nets, and hit some ludicrous strokes - one that stood out was the slash over slips, which had got him such applause in the first Test. It was almost as if he was parodying himself, mis-hitting the shot twice in an over - the first time, the ball grazed Jacques Kallis's outsretched palm at first slip; then it passed through Gary Kirsten's upraised hands at gully. Eventually, Tendulkar executed an elegant leave off Makhaya Ntini - and the ball crashed into his stumps. It was so surreal, it could have been a Dali painting.
This was despite the fact that South Africa's bowling was far from threatening. Shaun Pollock was not his usual lethal self, and barring Ntini in the second innings, the rest of the bowlers were pedestrian. Nothing illustrated this better than the fact that even Nicky Boje got an extended bowl, as if to counter the growing suspicion that he is the world's first specialist No. 9 batsman.
The Indian bowlers were battered by South Africa, not due to the South Africans' brilliance with the bat, but due to their own incompetence. The attack was as toothless as a nonagenarian's smile, and the fielders seemed offended if they had to run. Although Kallis and Pollock played well, the rank bad bowling from the Indians just made their job easy; Diwali was over, but the generosity of the Indian bowlers knew no bounds.
Jacques and Jacques
Jacques Rudolph did not make too many runs on his unofficial debut, but his stay at the crease was hugely impressive. He was poised and confident from the word go, hit some lovely strokes, and was more confident against the spinners than any young South African has a right to be. His footwork was nimble, his timing was immaculate, his future is assured. Jacques and Jacques at nos. 3 and 4; the South African middle order suddenly looks a shade more formidable.
The Great Wall
Indians refer to Rahul Dravid as 'The Wall', but that moniker would better suit Jacques Kallis who averaged 70 this year in Test matches, and would have reached 1000 runs for the calendar year were this an official Test. He was patient and judicious with his shot-selection, even against an utterly mediocre bowling attack. Considered one of the best allrounders in the world today, he is also on the very top tier of batsmen; that, certainly, is a rare thing.
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