India, with Sourav Ganguly in blistering form, coasted to a six wicket victory over South Africa with 17 deliveries to spare in the second one day international at the Keenan stadium in Jamshedpur on Sunday. With this, India took a 2-0 lead in the five match series.
South Africa were restricted to 199 in 47.2 overs and India made light of a comfortable target. It was India's first successful campaign at the Keenan stadium, surely the only international cricket stadium in the world named after an American, JL Keenan, former GM of Tisco. They had lost all the five previous games.
Kirsten and Gibbs had put on 235 at Kochi but here they made precisely nought as Ajit Agarkar, swinging it in to the left hander, knocked back Kirsten's off stump off his pads as the batsman tried to turn him onto the on side.
Agarkar got a second wicket a little later. Kallis, played away from his body, edged an outswinger to Dighe for 18. Lance Klusener got off the mark quickly with a single to midwicket but played a streaky shot to the third man fence, just wide of the keeper, from the last ball of the the over.
Gibbs continued to follow his aggressive instincts and cut Joshi ferociously off the back foot through the covers for four. But he perished in the same over playing forward and getting an edge through to Dighe. Gibbs' 27 came off 28 balls and South Africa were down to 59-3. The Indians were on the offensive now with the fielding also perking up to give support to the bowlers.
Agarkar was taken off after a seven over spell (2-28) and Anil Kumble came on in the 15th over. He was not very convincing to begin with as Klusener helped himself to couples on either side of the wicket.
Joshi was getting the ball to turn but he occasionally pitched one short outside off stump and was punished as Cronje did by punching him off the backfoot for four. For a man who hasn't had a good run with the bat for some time Cronje was gaining in confidence and stepped down to the pitch of the ball to hoist Joshi over long off.
The result was that Joshi was removed from the firing line and Tendulkar with his flattish off breaks took hold of the ball. With his fourth ball he packed off the dangerman Klusener as the batsman fished outside the off stump only to give Dighe his third catch of the innings. Klusener had been remarkably circumspect in his stay at the crease with his 19 coming off 32 balls as the score settled at 88/4 from 20 overs.
Nicky Boje was promoted up the order to join his captain who had played himself in and, always a good player of spin, was thriving on the Indian spin attack. Cronje stepped down and lofted Kumble over his head for four to bring up the hundred of the innings off 138 balls, in the 23rd over. Gathering in confidence, the South African captain duly reached his 50 off 62 balls.
Boje broke the shackles, mainly self imposed, pulling a short one from Tendulkar to the square leg fence and then leaning to cut Kumaran past Azharuddin at point for another boundary. When Boje tried to repeat the shot in the same over, he only succeeded in slashing it behind the wicket to Dighe for 28 (44 balls). The keeper was having a much better game today. Apart from the catching his collection of the ball also looked much more assured.
Pollock and Cronje kept the scoreboard ticking in preparation for the final assault.
Joshi was back in the attack and gave away a boundary to midwicket to Cronje but then enticed the batsman with a flighted one which he obligingly lofted into the hands of Robin Singh at long on. Cronje had made an invaluable 71 (86 balls) and at 178/6 it would take some effort from the lower order to set India a competitive total.
Kumble suffered the disappointment of having a good lbw shout against Pollock turned down but Joshi was not to be denied the same fate. Pollock, having made seven, played inside the line of another flighted one which turned and crashed through off and middle. Two balls later Derek Crookes was back in the pavilion for a duck, a leading edge going straight to Ganguly at midoff. The innings was now in terminal decline at 182/8 and Joshi was on a roll as his spell came to an end at 4-38 from 10 overs.
Kumble finally reaped the reward for his wicket to wicket line by getting the umpire to raise his finger against Pieter Strydom to a not so accurate delivery that was drifting outside off stump to make it 185-9.
The Indians were getting behind their overrate as a result of some very meticulous field setting during the innings. But they did not have to rue it as Agarkar mopped up the innings in the 48th over, with a couple of minutes to go, by getting Elworthy caught and bowled for his third wicket. Mark Boucher was left high and dry on 14 as the innings terminated at what seemed to be a highly inadequate 199.
At an asking rate of four an over the Indian batsmen may have had the grouse that the target did not sufficiently respect their abilities. Tendulkar gave them a sign of what was in store as he drove Pollock between cover and mid off for four in the first over. When Steve Elworthy bowled at his legs Tendulkar clipped him to square leg for four more.
Tendulkar was middling the ball cleanly but not able to pierce the close field easily. After a sedate start Ganguly joined in with a shot into the no mans land over the bowlers head that just carried to the long off boundary. Both batsmen were playing within themselves, not trying to be too flashy in view of the moderate asking rate.
Boje was introduced into the attack in the eighth over and Tendulkar treated him with circumspection, taking just a single off the last ball. Having been tied down for some time, Tendulkar suffered a rush of blood in the next over that was as needless as it was fatal. He stepped down the pitch to Pollock's first ball and hoicked him to midwicket for four. Off the next ball he came down again and lifted hm high in the air over midoff where Hansie Cronje running back took a well judged catch. Tendulkar had made 21 off 31 balls and India were 33/1.
Strangely Sunil Joshi was promoted in the order again when the need was to consolidate, not experiment. Cronje responded by taking out Boje and bringing on the offspinner Derek Crookes to counter the two left handers at the crease. Crookes did not betray the trust of his skipper and sent Joshi on his way with his second delivery, trapping him in front of leg stump. It was a maiden to boot as India stayed at 33/2 after 10 overs.
Ganguly set about repairing the damage with two boundaries off Pollock including a straight hit down the ground. Crookes had done the job entrusted and Boje returned for his second spell. Cronje was only changing ends for Crookes and the latter replaced Pollock at the other end.
Dravid started confidently by sending Crookes thudding into the advertising boards at cover with a cut shot. The runs were coming pretty freely now as Ganguly played the same stroke to the other part of the ground in the same over. Ganguly never kept his intentions of stepping to the pitch of the ball and attacking the spinners in doubt. He took a four and a six respectively over Boje and Crookes to long on.
Neither batsman was troubled by the spinners although Dravid once edged Boje just wide of first slip. The field slowly spread out and Cronje was forced to acknowledge the batsmen's dominance by taking out first slip and putting in a sweeper cover after several boundaries had been hit to that part of the ground.
The game was slipping away from the South Africans now and with both spinners having taken some pasting, they needed to try something different. A double change was effected with Strydom and Kallis being tried out. But the batsmen carried on in the same vein.
Ganguly got to his fifty by picking Kallis off his legs for a couple. And not even a brief invasion by an unmanned balloon into the outfield could affect the batsmen's concentration as they went about their job methodically. At the end of 25 overs, India was 106/2 with Ganguly on 54 in 74 balls and Dravid on 26 from 45 balls.
Just when the partnership between Ganguly and Dravid had assumed menacing proportions, the South Africans finally effected the breakthrough in the 30th over. Dravid threw away all the good work he had done by stepping out recklessly to lift Boje on the onside, only to get a leading edge which ballooned to Gibbs at cover. The third wicket stand was worth 88 and with the score at 121/3, India could not afford to let down their guard.
Azharuddin felt the pressure as Cronje encircled him with two slips and a silly point in an all out bid to get another wicket. But as long as Ganguly was at the wicket India could have no worries and the skipper showed his total control over the situation by slammimg Strydom for two sixes in successive overs, over midwicket and long on respectively. At the end of 35 overs India were 146/3 with another 54 needed off 90 balls.
Azharuddin decided that he wasn't going to play second fiddle to the skipper and bludgeoned 12 runs in cavalier fashion off a Boje over including boundaries to wide long on and extra cover. The South Africans had all but thrown in the towel now and Ganguly entered his eighties with a sizzling square drive off Strydom. The fifty partnership came off just 57 balls when Ganguly cracked Crookes to wide long off for four.
The Indians had no intention of doing a slow march to victory. They were speeding like a highway truck and Ganguly smote his fourth six, and his third off the unfortunate Strydom, to gatecrash into the nineties.
The imminent onset of his hundred however imposed a measure of restraint on Ganguly's strokeplay and he played out the next two overs with just a solitary run accruing to his blade. He seemed determined to take his own time to the mark even putting his head down and playing defensively on occasion. The elusive run finally came with a sweep down to fineleg off Crookes as Ganguly completed his hundred off 136 balls (9 fours and 4 sixes).
Cronje, who for some reason had conspicuously absented himself from the attack, came on in the 46th over and bowled Azharuddin between bat and pad with his first ball. The runs were coming in a trickle now but India had paced their innings well and the scores were levelled in the 47th over through a wide from Kallis. Fittingly the winning runs came off the bat of Ganguly as he guided Cronje to the fence at backward point.
Complacency should not creep in
Ever since the brutal onslaught of Vivian Richards and Gordon Greenidge in the early eighties, the Keenan Stadium at Jamshedpur has never been a happy hunting ground for the Indians