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Zaheer makes it rip, but then India let it slip

There can't be more turns and twists in a day's play than witnessed today. The pendulum swung so much it left everyone dizzy by the time the eventful day came to an end. Subhash Rajta reports. Special| Live scorecard | Deconstructing Events As They Happened

cricket Updated: Dec 28, 2010 02:05 IST
Subhash Rajta

There can't be more turns and twists in a day's play than witnessed on Monday. The pendulum swung so much it left everyone dizzy by the time the eventful day came to an end.

South Africa seized the initiative in the morning when they bowled out India for 205, allowing the visitors to add 32 to their overnight total.

However, India staged an amazing fightback by bowling out South Africa for just 131. With a crucial 74-run lead, India had their nose ahead when the top-order threw it away again, leaving VVS Laxman and Cheteshwar Pujara to fight it out.

The story of the day was the spectacular show by the India bowlers.

It started with Zaheer Khan ambling in to bowl to Graeme Smith, the stadium crackling in anticipation.

The paceman has dismissed the South Africa skipper with amazing regularity in the past, and the contest between the two set the tone for the big battle.

Fortunately for India, the duel went as per the script with Zaheer emerging triumphant. Smith hung around until he edged the ball to the wicketkeeper.

With the battle within the battle won, India turned their focus to the larger goal and came up with a stunning show to bring the formidable South Africa batting to its knees.

The supremely disciplined show reiterated one thing — Zaheer is almost indispensable to this India attack. On the individual front, he was brilliant right from the word go.

Even with his medium pace, he kept the batsmen guessing with superb control over swing and seam.

With him spearheading the attack, the other bowlers, who had looked ordinary at Centurion, showed major improvement. Although Sreesnath wasted the new ball, before leaving a better impression in the subsequent spells, Ishant Sharma hit the right line and length, and created some discomfort for the batsmen with his pace and steep bounce.

The knockout blows came from Harbhajan Singh, who picked up four wickets, including the all-important scalp of Hashim Amla, to snuff out any hopes of revival.

To add to a stunning bowling effort, the fielders chipped in with some spectacular catches. While Rahul Dravid held on to a superb catch in the slips — his 200th — to dismiss Dale Steyn, Pujara held on to an equally brilliant catch at short leg to send back Morne Morkel.

The batsmen, unfortunately, undid the spectacular effort on the field.

All that was required from them was to show patience and application to build on the lead and post a big total.

The going looked good till Virender Sehwag's rash stroke off Lonwabo Tsotsobe triggered a collapse, reducing India from 42 for no loss to 56 for 4 with Murali Vijay, Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar following suit. At close, India led by 166 runs.