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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Jul 2014

Cricket News

Sun shines on South Africa after damp start on Day 1
Subhash Rajta, Hindustan Times
Cape Town, January 02, 2011
First Published: 14:27 IST(2/1/2011)
Last Updated: 08:24 IST(3/1/2011)

It looked funny but it must have hurt Graeme Smith as much as the verbal barbs from S Sreesanth. The South African skipper pushed a Zaheer Khan delivery to midwicket for a single, but Harbhajan Singh deliberately allowed the ball to roll down a bit further, challenging Smith to take a double, and get back to facing the left-arm bowler.

And then, adding insult to injury, Zaheer bowled a gem of a delivery to dismiss Smith once again, taking his overall count to eleven against the batsman.  He trapped him plumb before the wicket with a delivery that shaped to move away, but darted in between his bat and pad to rap him on the back foot.

That was the start India would have wanted to the match that will decide whether they would go home with their first series win in South Africa or without it.  Nonetheless, the visitors, at the end of the day that saw several disruptions, would have been a tad disappointed to see the hosts reaching 232 for the loss of four wickets.

Dangerman Jacques Kallis looked solid as ever when play ended for the day.

The start to the day brought in a sense of déjà vu. With the thick and dark clouds blocking out the sun and the wicket having some moisture in it, conditions looked the same as that witnessed on the first day of the Tests at Centurion and Durban. The only difference, a crucial one at that, was MS Dhoni leaving behind his wretched luck with toss in the year gone by.

The Indian skipper would be a disappointed man if he had gone in hoping to see a South African collapse, similar to that of India in the first innings of the last two matches in seaming conditions. That it didn't happen could be attributed to two factors: South Africa showed better application than India did, and secondly, the conditions probably weren't as tough as they were when India had batted first.

India had seized the initiative when Zaheer removed Smith and then Ishant Sharma had the other opener Alviro Petersen caught behind to leave South Africa tottering at 34 for 2. But then, a 72-run partnership between Hashim Amla and Kallis halted the Indian charge. Amla, in particular, was quite aggressive, particularly against Sreesanth, and played some exquisite cover drives and pulls. While Amla fell shortly after 50 to a short delivery from Sreesanth, Kallis held on firmly, guiding South Africa out of the woods with an unbeaten 81.

The Indian pace bowlers did a reasonably good job on Sunday.  Zaheer beat batsmen with amazing regularity, and Ishant caused some discomfort with his deliveries darting into the batsmen. Sreesanth, who preferred to stay quiet today, was wayward to start with but came back nicely to pick up two wickets.  He had some rough time standing on the boundary with spectators heckling him, but he handled it well.

On Monday, however, the pressure will be on them to dismiss South Africa for as few runs as possible.  If they don't, the advantage the toss gave them would be negated.


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