And then there were none… There was a sense of inevitability to this whole run chase long before Ajit Agarkar fell to give South Africa a massive 157-run victory and begin what looks like it will be a horribly predictable tour for India.
But the thousands of tricolour waving, vocal South African Indians who have made this stadium look like a mini-India, probably hoped that Thursday would see the start of something special. Unfortunately, there's just so much wishful thinking can accomplish and the Indian cricket team needs something far stronger than that.
The storm clouds loomed large but did not break. Ultimately, they did not even really threaten. They might have if the game had gone the whole distance but as the Indian innings, all 91 runs of it, lasted less than 30 overs; they didn't even need to.
The Indian batsmen needed no help from above as they did their dance of death and engineered a spectacular collapse that will no doubt engender a storm of its own in the days to come.
|Andre Nel and team-mates celebrate the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar for 35 in Durban on Wednesday, November 22, 2006. South Africa won the match by 157 runs. Photo: Alexander Joe/AFP|
For a brief while, under a clear sky that scoffed at the weathermen who predicted a washout, the Indians must have thought they'd given themselves a glimpse of a chance when despite some erratic bowling efforts and not a great display in the field either and a composed, if somewhat slow century by the seemingly imperturbable and rather enigmatic Jacques Kallis (119* off 160 balls), they restricted South Africa to 248.
It was not an easy target, given the nippy conditions, but if they had batted to potential, something they had not done at all this season, it was also the kind of target they could get. Sadly, they did exactly what they had done all season --- bat badly .
In what has become a heartbreakingly familiar sight to Indian cricket fans all over the world, a once-hyped batting line-up gave yet another embarrassing account of itself, one that will likely only get worse as this season goes on.
It started early, with Wasim Jaffer's one-day debut becoming the kind of nightmare that batsmen pray will not happen to them. Jaffer, standing in for Sehwag (a call was taken not to play him after fielding practice last night as the finger seemed tender after the last couple of stitches were taken out), lasted all of three balls, helping a Shaun Pollock ball that moved in a bit onto his stumps. India were on the backfoot immediately .
Kaif lasted half an hour or so but Pollock got his man again, sticking to an outside the off-stump line that saw Kaif drive-slash the ball towards point, where Gibbs made no mistake.
Tendulkar gave glimpses of what once had been on the way to top-scoring with 35 and he and Dravid stood around for a bit to have people watching and waiting.
But once Dravid allowed a Charl Langeveldt delivery, that cut back sharply to get between bat and pad and Tendulkar attempted a drive and edged Andre Nel onto his stumps with the score static, it was all over.
There is little point in describing what happened later, suffice to say it was not pretty The pace-heavy Proteas . will always back themselves to defend targets under conditions where the ball will probably seam and swing, and while the Indian bowling did not do too badly they would need their batsmen to , contribute something to even stand half a chance of winning.
At the end, Dravid admitted his team would have to play much better than this to compete in the series but he could be forgiven for wondering how that will happen. His batsmen have looked totally out of sorts for so long now that no one seems sure what they need to do to just hang in there, forget come up with the big ones.
This Indian team has been up against a wall, with fragile form and reportedly, even more fragile equations within the team contributing to an un certain atmosphere. A win here could have changed all that. It could have been the fillip India needed to gather momentum for their World Cup campaign.
Unfortunately for them, they have not only lost, they have lost in devastating fashion and to pick themselves up from here will need a massive mental overhaul. Otherwise, it could be the beginning of the end because it would leave them playing a familiar game of catch-up in South Africa for the rest of this series. And that, as history has proved time and time again, is never a happy position to be in.
Smith lbw b Zaheer 1
Bosman lbw b Zaheer 22
Kallis not out 119
Gibbs c Dhoni b Munaf 2
de Villiers st. Dhoni b Mongia 41
Boucher c Zaheer b Munaf 23
Kemp c Dhoni b Agarkar 8
Pollock c Tendulkar b Agarkar 0
Nel run out 22
Extras (lb-1, w-9) 10, Total: (For 8 wkts, 50 overs) 248
Fall of wkts: 1-3, 2-47, 3-63, 4-150, 5196, 6-209, 7-209, 8-248.
Munaf Patel 10-2-39-2
Zaheer Khan 8-0-53-2
Ajit Agarkar 9-147-2
Sachin Tendulkar 9-1-33-0
Harbhajan Singh 10-0-59-0
Dinesh Mongia 4-0-16-1
Jaffer b Pollock 0
Tendulkar b Nel 35
Kaif c Gibbs b Pollock
8 Dravid b Langeveldt 18
Dhoni c Boucher b Nel 14
Raina c Kallis b Nel 4
Mongia c Kemp b Kallis 1
Harbhajan lbw b Kallis 1
Agarkar b Kallis 6
Zaheer c Boucher b Nel 1
Munaf not out 0
Extras: w-1, nb-2 3, Total (In 29.1 overs) 91
Fall of wkts: 1-0, 2-39, 3-62, 4-62, 5-82, 6-83, 7-83, 8-84, 9-85.
Man-of-the-match: Jacques Kallis.