Mumbai was repeated at Cape Town

Butter fingers at both the venues resulted in losses which bowlers did not deserve, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2006 18:36 IST

Humiliation at Cape Town, which can now be rechristened Kemp Town, is the most inexplicable loss that India has experienced in recent times. And perhaps the most irksome too.

With six quality South African wickets bundled out for just 76 on board, it was impossible to get any other result than an Indian win. Proteas looked well and truly buried, before they rose from the grave and hammered our men blue in the face.

One can blame Agarkar and Pathan for profligacy, the inability of Harbhajan to keep things in control in the middle overs, and an expensive Zaheer in the end.

But it would be unfair to blame these bowlers for the rout. If anything, it was certainly not bad bowling.

But before we strive to prove it, lets go back to the final Test of the India-England series at Wankhede Stadium in mid-March.

This capitulation at Cape Town is similar to Mumbai Test in one sense. The fielding lapses which had allowed England to claw back into the series, came back again to hound India against South Africa.

If we take the first innings of the Mumbai Test, England benefited from as many as nine chances missed by Indian fielders. Lapses which eventually allowed them to level the series at one-all.

Keeper Dhoni had allowed three escapes, including a missed stumping, while Dravid and Yuvraj had dropped two each. In that innings, Sehwag and Kumble had accounted for the remaining two.

England first innings in Mumbai Test

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Now, England's first innings lead was 121, which proved critical in the end. But for the missed chances costing 128 in partnerships, India would have been in the lead.

The dismal show continued in England's second innings as well. The visiting team would have folded for less than 100 but they managed to make 191 only because we offered them so many chances. India eventually lost the match by 212 runs, while the missed chances had cost them 226 in terms of partnership runs.

Missed chances in England's second innings

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Now before we start blaming bowlers left and right for allowing South Africa to escape to victory, it is worth noting that India would have got the hosts for less than 150 but for three critical lapses.

Justine Kemp was dropped twice but the first lapse came when he had scored just 9 runs. Tendulkar dropped a sitter off his own bowling. That one miss cost India 91 runs. Similarly Shaun Pollock was dropped at 12 and Hall at 22. They added 55 more runs to the total.

Three critical Dropped catches at Cape Town

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Now, the dropped catches alone cost India 146 runs in individual scores, not counting the partnerships. And South Africa's winning score - 106 runs!

In contrast, when Dhoni looked like taking India single-handedly to an improbable victory, Bosman lapped up what was only half a chance.

The only difference between the two teams was while one played with safe and assured hands, the other looked most tentative in grasping simple opportunities.

In the end, South Africa's fielding coach Jonty Rhodes turned out to be the difference between the two teams.

First Published: Nov 27, 2006 13:57 IST