Watching Virender Sehwag bat is usually an experience in extremes because of the high risk involved. For him, the bat, it seems, has been invented to hit every ball, making the line between agony and ecstasy as thin as possible.
On Monday, things unfolded with a crucial difference without their being a change in impact. An early flurry of fours tempered under the mid-afternoon sun as daring bomber transformed into responsible soldier relying on commonsense when South Africa resorted to bowling wide down both sides.
Sehwag made optimum use of what was bowled closer to him. There was only the odd, successful attempt to break the rules in the form of reverse sweeps. It was otherwise a display of crisp and classy shots with perfect timing in good batting conditions. This ensured that although checked, the run rate was never seriously compromised with. Most importantly, it gave India an edge with lots of time remaining on a wicket where once the new ball is seen through, scoring isn't difficult.
Having bowled South Africa out for 296, India would have been happy to end the day about 30 short without losing too many wickets. They did lose three in the end, but with a lead of 46 in the bank - something they probably would have settled for before the start of the match.
"It's unsettling for the fielding side when Sehwag gets going," said South Africa coach Corrie van Zyl. "He scores very quickly and gets the crowd behind him. That is the time when you got to stick to plans. We have to analyse why didn't we stick to our plans and why we failed to apply pressure. We bowled too full initially."
They did, but Sehwag often slapped the ball past point when he got width with the chance to rock back.
The massacre included a slashed six over square third-man and a couple of reverse whacks when Paul Harris returned to his over-the-wicket, outside-leg line. Cricket is a team game but there exist individuals who deliver something special to give their team the edge. Having proved earlier that he belongs to this breed, Sehwag has done his bit in keeping up the good work started by the bowlers. It's up to the rest to build on it.