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Friday, December 17, 2010

SA Series - wet and disappointing start for Indians

Dale Steyn at a training session at the Adelai...
Easily the best bowler in the World
After rain delayed the match and dampened the pitch, the first test started with India losing the toss yet again. MS Dhoni has never helped his team with the toss whenever required - one hopes that the rub of the coin will have to go his way sometime - when is the question. The match started on a negative note for the Indians with their strike bowler Zaheer sitting out.

I had hoped that rain would wipe out the entire day and hence given him a chance to recover but these are grounds with facilities that are top-class - give the groundsmen couple of hours and they will restart the game very quickly.

The bowling was relentless with only Tsotsobe and Harris providing some relief to the Indian batsmen. Otherwise, Steyn and Morkel were literally at the neck of the Indians. On a normal pitch, they are a handful - imagine them on one that was damp and quick. Imaginative rotation of the bowlers meant that the top-order could not breathe easily.

Even then, some of the Indian batsmen were guilty of giving their wickets away. Sehwag's patience was tested and he obliged with a waft outside the off-stump - very good execution of a carefully laid trap for the batsman. Gambhir and Dravid managed to evade the good balls by taking them on the body as well as the edges of the bat but not for long. The bowling was on the dot for a pitch that was doing quite a bit - it was a matter of when the next wicket would bat.

Sachin Tendulkar started counter-attacking against Tsotsobe and it looked that he would bail the team out of the condition it was in (no one was still thinking about the 50th test century). VVS and Sachin took the team to lunch with 3 wickets down, giving signs that with their recent form this year they would be able to lead the fight-back.

However, this was a South African team which has the best opening attack in the world operating at home. The balls that got Laxman and Tendulkar out were not great, taken on an individual level. But, they were preceded by testing deliveries that eventually resulted in the wickets. Six wickets had gone down for 71 and the Indians were looking at a sub-100 score.

Harbhajan, with his confidence of 2 test centuries in the last test series, came out and started playing his patented strokes. This meant that the scorecard was moving - very vital in the state of the match. Dhoni was at the other end giving him the strike and running the singles hard. Bad luck to Harbhajan meant that the Indian was left struggling to retain the crease - Boucher needed no luck to throw the stumps down with an under-flick. Ishant and Sreesanth were easily packed off by the tall Morkel leaving MS Dhoni at the other crease. He started to play his strokes and add runs on the board. The debutant Unadkat is out at the crease, surprised that he was playing and more so that he was out to bat.

Tomorrow, if the lone wicket can add few more runs and get to a total of 150-175, it will give the bowlers something to bowl at. Alternatively, if there are rains again, the Indian bowlers will get a surface that will help them also - it would be then their turn to deliver a good performance and seize the initiative back.

Both the sessions were won hands-down by the Proteas giving them a lead of 2-0 on the first day.
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