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‘145k is the same, Jo’burg or Nagpur’

The classic of the day really, was the ball that got Murali Vijay.

cricket Updated: Feb 08, 2010 23:35 IST
HT Correspondent

The classic of the day really, was the ball that got Murali Vijay.

The South Africans had consistently bowled an outside off line to him for most of the 15 minutes he was there. Having just been a bit rattled by one from Steyn that moved away, he shouldered arms to the next delivery, only to see it land on the seam slightly outside off and then, cut back in viciously to thump into his off-stump.

"That kind of stuff just doesn't happen out in the middle," said Steyn later. "We've really planned it, makes the wicket so much sweeter." With all the Indian batsmen, South Africa seemed to be playing to a plan and Steyn, the World's No. 1 Test bowler, was their weapon of choice.

On Tuesday, he showed why he is arguably the most dangerous bowler in world cricket today. He hit the deck hard, pitched it up, moved it both ways, gave everyone watching a lesson in how to use the reverse swing and made a mockery of the fact that this wicket, a low, slow one that favoured batsmen, had nothing in it for the bowlers.

As he said later, it just didn't matter. "Before the Test started, we said that reverse swing was going to be a key on these flat pitches. You're not going to get a lot of sideways movement off the wicket. There's not a lot of grass on them. You've got to rely on getting the ball to do something through the air. I said before that a ball bowled at 145kmph, a yorker, whether it's in Jo'burg or Nagpur, is still 145kmph in the air."

In the 15 minutes or so that he bowled in the day's final session, he deceived Saha (like Vijay, shouldering arms to a ball that cut back); Zaheer (pushing an inswinger onto his stumps); Mishra (played on while attempting to cut) and Harbhajan (plumb in front to one that moved in and straight).

And just for good measure, he got rid of Sehwag in his second essay, misjudging a drive that edged to the slips. Even if you were an Indian supporter, it was wonderful stuff.

At stumps, Vijay and Tendulkar, novice and master, were standing at the crease, having held fort together for about an hour and a quarter after the shock second innings dismissals of Gambhir and Sehwag. There are still two full days left in this Test and India are 259 behind.

On Tuesday morning, South Africa's pacemen, refreshed after a night's rest and knowing fully well that India's vacuum in the middle means that three more wickets will probably hand them this game, will throw everything they can at them.

India can't win from here, but they can try to do what is nearly as impossible and save the game. Sehwag thinks it depends on Tendulkar. "Sachin is still out in the middle, he is vastly experienced and hopefully, he will get us out of trouble.

But if India do so, Tendulkar will need to work a miracle.

Boucher suffers back strain

Wicketkeeper Mark Boucher sustained a lower back strain during the third day's play, forcing AB de Villiers to don the big gloves. The team management later clarified that the injury was not serious and that Boucher would work closely with the team physiotherapist to be fit for the second Test.