Player of the Match
Player of the Match

India lose their way completely

Another disappointing day for the Indians was partially salvaged as Anil Kumble picked up the wicket of Herschelle Gibbs at the fag end of the day.

Having won the toss and elected to bat first, India did themselves no good by being bundled out for 158. On a dusty track at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore the South Africans bowled with great discipline. Strangely that was all they needed to do as the Indians played irresponsibly all day and lost their wickets to careless shots.

When you lose a Test match to a visiting side in just three days, you expect the selectors to take a long hard look at the composition of the team. The five wise men of Indian cricket looked and made three changes. As expected, Mohammed Azharuddin came in to strengthen the middle order and Nikhil Chopra was drafted in as the third spinner. The move that surprised many was the inclusion of Mohammed Kaif. Wasim Jaffer got another chance to prove his mettle at the top of the innings.

South Africa opted to play to their strength and replaced Clive Eksteen with Nantie Hayward. A fit Daryll Cullinan reclaimed his spot in the middle order. Sachin Tendulkar won the toss once more and had no hesitation in telling his compatriot "We'll have a bat."

Rahul Dravid opening the innings was at his dour best, not attempting to do anything flashy. After using VVS Laxman as a makeshift opener and finding the exercise a failure, the selectors decision to persist with these band aid solutions defies logic. However, they may not be worried so much about the long run as the task at hand.

Wasim Jaffer failed once more, being caught behind before he made too many. Sourav Ganguly, more accustomed to batting lower down in the order came in at one drop. His change of place proved costly as he played down the wrong line to a well pitched up delivery from Pollock and was adjudged LBW. The ball pitching on the stumps and shaping in nicely looked like it was heading for the stumps and umpire Tiffin lifted the finger and sent Ganguly on his way.

Sachin Tendulkar joined Dravid out in the middle and a period of consolidation followed.

Rahul Dravid's insistence on spending large amounts of time at the wicket and not scoring runs while at it proved yet again to be detrimental to India's cause. After a painful 112 minutes at the crease had yielded a miserly 17 runs, Dravid inside edged a straight ball from Cronje to Boucher behind the stumps. At 58/3 India were clearly on the back foot.

With an awkward few minutes to play out before lunch Mohammed Azharuddin began his comeback bid. Soon after lunch there was bad news for India as Azharuddin fell just when he looked good. Playing one dashing drive off the back foot that sizzled through the covers for four. Allan Donald was not impressed at all and fired the ball in short next up. Azhar took the bait, fended at the ball and presented Lance Klusener at gully with the simplest of catches.

One Mohammed was replaced by another as young Kaif walked out to the middle to play his first Test innings. Kaif's trial by fire began immediately as Donald gave him a good working over. Peppering the debutant with short pitched stuff, Donald let more than a few words fly. Unshaken by it all, Kaif defended solidly.

Sachin Tendulkar once again faced the task of propping up the Indian innings. On this occasion however, he simply could not go on. Attempting to pull a Hayward bouncer, Tendulkar was late on the ball. Beaten for pace Tendulkar went through with the shot and ended up hitting the ball towards mid off. The ball struck the bat high up on the blade and ballooned towards the South African captain. Running in from mid off, Cronje took a good diving catch and sent Tendulkar on his way. Tendulkar had made 21 runs.

Nayan Mongia joined Kaif in the middle, showed good spirit and took on the South African bowlers.

Though he was not scoring, Kaif looked solid till he was trapped plumb in front by Jacques Kallis. Playing around the ball, Kaif was rapped on the pads by a delivery that came in just a shade. Having made a patient 12 runs, a distinctly disappointed Kaif made the long walk to the pavilion as Anil Kumble came in.

Anil Kumble hasn't made a decent score in a while now. Luckily for the Indian team, he chose today to show that he could wield the willow. While all around him floundered, Kumble batted out till he ran out of partners. Kumble simplified his batting style to suit the conditions and was by far the most effective batsman of the lot.

Chopra, Kartik and Srinath all fell without much ado. Kumble meanwhile had accumulated 36 runs, fifteen runs more than Tendulkar, the next highest scorer.

Being all out for a paltry 158 on the very first day, India desperately needed to break the South African opening partnership.

When South Africa came out to bat needing to see off just five overs, there was a buzz in the ground. Going into the game with only one medium pacer prompted India to open the bowling with Srinath and Kumble. Srinath looked sharp in the two overs he bowled, beat the outside edge, but could not force the breakthrough. Kumble at the other end, gave India the start they needed, trapping Herschelle Gibbs plumb in front. A straight, fast delivery caught Gibbs unawares and umpire Russel Tiffen was in agreement with the Indians.

Nicky Boje was sent in as nightwatchman and with Gary Kirsten saw South Africa through to stumps without further damage. South Africa will be disappointed, ending the day on 11/1. However the day definitely belonged to South Africa and they will be fighting hard to post a solid total tomorrow.