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Not quite the whipping boys, India claw back

cricket Updated: Dec 19, 2010 09:01 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Battered and bruised for two and a half days, Indian batsmen finally showed some of the resilience and pluck they are renowned for to end the third day of the Centurion Test against South Africa with some lingering hope on Saturday.

After being pummeled with the ball and bat for two days, Indian bowlers fared even worse than they did on Friday as Jacques Kallis produced his maiden Test double hundred after A B de Villiers smashed the fastest Test hundred by a South African batsman.

India needed an extraordinary effort from their openers to lift their spirits that lay crushed under the mountain of 484 runs - that's what they are chasing to avoid the innings defeat after South Africa declared at 620 for 4 - after their first innings debacle.

Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir did just that. There was a lot of anxiety and anticipation about how would they go about their job after that stunning first day batting collapse. A slightly defensive approach might have appeared a safer route, but the duo took South Africa by surprise with an overly aggressive attitude. Sehwag started off almost with a similar stroke off Steyn that led to his downfall in the first innings; an on-the-up drive through covers. Only this time the result was a boundary as intended.

Gambhir, too, after weathering the short-pitched onslaught from Morne Morkel once again found his rhythm and nicely clipped boundaries off the pads. Even though he looked uncomfortable with the short stuff and was dropped twice, he didn't give in this time until Steyn trapped him lbw for 80. On the other hand, a false stroke came from Sehwag's willow just when one would have expected it the least. The moment of indiscretion this time came in his lofting the left arm spinner Paul Harris to long off, where Graeme Smith happily pouched the catch.

With India 190 for 2 at the stumps, and still trailing by 294 runs, they are still nowhere close to saving this match. Yet, what the openers did is crucial in that it would give a lot of confidence to the following batsmen.

Depressing Bowling

The morning session was again depressing because of the way the Indians bowled. But it produced a major feat that Jacques Kallis and every South African cricket fan had been waiting for years - the first Test double hundred by Kallis after having touched the three-figure mark 37 times. After Kallis and Amla had left the Indian bowling reeling on the second day, AB de Villiers joined the all rounder to plunder runs, scoring his century off just 75 balls. The way he blasted them painted a very grim picture with Dhoni spreading his field. Smith finally obliged, declaring the innings.