Sehwag puts India well on top

India 129 for 1 (Sehwag 82*, Dravid 33*) trail South Africa 305 (Kallis 121) by 176 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Virender Sehwag made batting look simple on a day when few runs were scored, and took India to 129 for 1. For the second time in two games, he outscored everyone else, and handled the bowlers comfortably. South Africa could add only 78 runs before they were dismissed for 305 in the morning, as the bowling attack, led by Zaheer Khan, kept up the pressure throughout.

The Eden Gardens witnessed a Sehwag Moment shortly after he reached 50. Until then he was cautious, as Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and Andrew Hall probed away with deliveries on and around off stump. Of the three, only Pollock achieved significant movement. To counter the incoming deliveries, Sehwag stood outside leg stump. When Pollock strayed, he drove and cut him for delightful fours. The others tested him with short deliveries as well, to which he mostly swayed away. The approach was an unfamiliar one. But all that changed after his fifty.

Justin Ontong bowled the over that had the crowd on their feet. Sehwag punched the third ball through cover for four, deposited the next over midwicket for six, fetched the fifth from outside off stump over midwicket for four, and, after a hold-up, when Graeme Smith waved his arms about and spread the field, reverse-swept the sixth to third man for another boundary. Before long, he had raced to 82, when stumps were finally called. His average for the series is currently 246.

Rahul Dravid, at the other end, struggled to find his touch. Barring a brace of fours off Ontong late in the day and a fierce cut off Ntini, he was a shadow of the fluent batsman who had caused grief to attacks only seven months ago. It wasn't pretty, but he survived. His stand with Sehwag was worth 112 runs, and it absorbed the effect of losing Gautam Gambhir early, when Shaun Pollock trapped him in front.

South Africa chose to bolster their batting with men who could bowl a bit, and the approach cost them. Barring Pollock and, to a lesser extent, Ntini, none looked incisive. The limited bowling options South Africa have could be just what India's run-starved batsmen need.

Earlier, India's fast bowlers swung the ball in and cut it away, to have South Africa in discomfort. In his first over, Irfan Pathan had Zander de Bruyn hurriedly jamming his bat down to keep out two inswinging yorkers. de Bruyn departed when Zaheer moved one away and caught the edge of his bat in the third over of the morning.
But Sourav Ganguly struck the most vital blow when he removed Jacques Kallis during a spell where he swung the ball either way. The ball curved in and bowled Kallis, who had shouldered arms, expecting it to move away as previous balls had (261 for 7). He scored 121, and had negotiated deliveries far more challenging.

Anil Kumble had toiled lucklessly throughout the innings, but his joy came when he dismissed Pollock with one that bounced, took the edge of his bat, and gave Dravid the 114th catch of his career (273 for 8). A stubborn partnership between Thami Tsolekile and Ontong followed, and it took South Africa past 300. Then, after an interminable wait, Harbhajan Singh was finally given the ball. He wrapped up the innings immediately.

It gave respite to a crowd that had grown more restless as the day went by. They had waited for a day-and-a-half as wickets fell, albeit slowly, before Sehwag made the wait worthwhile.