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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

SA Series - Draw would be the right result

Jacques Kallis at a training session at the Ad...Best All-rounder today
South Africa after the 3rd day, spoke about adopting a safety-first approach - making sure there were enough runs on the board before thinking about a target to set. So much so, for a team that was favorites to win the test series even though they were ranked lower. This approach, everyone thought, was a defeatist one. There was a  repetition of the old nature - succumbing under pressure.

Would they choke today? India started in the right fashion - taking the first two wickets in no time. Harbhajan Singh bowled in the right areas to take the overnight batsmen out. This was followed by the wicket of AB De Viliers, thanks to an excellent spell by Zaheer Khan.

Lunch was taken with South Africa at 121 for the loss of five wickets. Jacques Kallis started putting pressure on the batsmen by unleashing his reverse-sweeps against Harbhajan. Jacques Kallis. Take a bow, mate. There is no greater all-rounder in international cricket who has played cricket after the era of Gary Sobers. No bowler could trouble him on a day which had enough for the bowlers. He was in trouble because of his side-strain - there were many instances where pain started to trouble him repeatedly. He overcame all these issues and scored his second century of the match. With his hundred, he left Ponting behind on the number of centuries scored. Pure master-class.

Prince also fell soon but Mark Boucher gave ample support to Kallis. The wicket-keeper had not made any major contribution to the batting throughout the series - this was a time for him to come good. He did more than that - he was good in adding runs to pile the misery on the Indians. A century partnership between the two took the score to a respectable one. Dale Steyn followed his heroics with the ball to put on a fifty partnership. The match was slipping away from the Indians now. Morkel also added runs to the board, taking the match beyond the reach of India now. South Africa could have declared after reaching 300 and put the Indians to bat for few overs today but the thought of Sehwag must have scared them.

Harbhajan and Zaheer got tired after their initial spells and couldnt get any proper support from the other bowlers. Harbhajan was expected to lead the attack on this pitch and take most of the wickets - though he did take most of the wickets, it came a bit too late. Ishant missed the last opportunity to make an impact while Sreesanth was wayward, as has been his nature. The Indians, one thought, missed the bowling of Sehwag who could have bowled wicket to wicket. He would have brought in his bag of tricks to truly test the Proteans. His shoulder injury prevented him to bowl this series.

Tomorrow, the Indians will have to play 90 overs in the thought that they have a chance to win the match. If they try to bat the day out, they will have more chances of losing the match than saving it. 340 runs in 90 overs is almost four runs per over. It will be a hot day again tomorrow and it remains to be seen how the four bowlers perform (without the presence of Kallis). Each bowler will have to bowl more than twenty overs and try to get the Indians out. Looking at the bowling averages in the test series, that will be good enough for them to take ten Indian wickets if they bowl in the same way they have done throughout (Strike rates are - Steyn 32 balls per wicket, Morkel 46bpw, Harris 123bpw, Tsotsobe 83bpw). Maybe the Indians should take a leaf out of the batting of Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan against Steyn and put pressure by attacking him. Yes, easier said than done.

How the pitch behaves tomorrow remains to be seen - will it continue to be the way it seemed to behave in the last two sessions of the day? If so, Indians will think they have a chance to draw the match. If Sehwag gets going, they might fancy a win as well. As of today, the sessions won by each team remains equal with six each.
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