In­dia on the ropes

Hair rais­ing… Kal­lis 102* and Amla 116* put Proteas in con­trol

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

Day 2 of 5 In­dia 136 South Africa 366/2 BLOW af­ter pun­ish­ing blow has landed on In­dia’s rep­u­ta­tion in this first Test, and as yet the world’s No 1 side has failed to land a counter punch.

This has so far been about as an in­sipid a per­for­mance as there’s been by one of the lead­ing cricket na­tions to tour this coun­try.

Ma­hen­dra Singh Dhoni, so renowned for his in­no­va­tive and brave cap­taincy, let the game drift yes­ter­day.

It was as if his wicket off the third ball of the day that sig­nalled the end of the In­dian in­nings, also meant the end of all hope of a win in this match... All hope wasn’t gone by that stage – by stumps it prob­a­bly had dis­ap­peared.

On the other hand the South Africa side has been ruth­lessly ef­fi­cient.

They’ve blitzed the tourists with the ball, and yes­ter­day there was an in­ten­sity about their bat­ting that once more spoke to their care­ful strate­gis­ing, con­fi­dence and mas­sive mo­ti­va­tion for this se­ries.

Hav­ing toured In­dia twice in the last 21 months and taken se­ries leads into the fi­nal Tests on both oc­ca­sions, only to come up short, they were look­ing for­ward to giv­ing In­dia a proper work­out in con­di­tions in which they’ve never con­vinced.

This pitch is just that – though there are no demons, it has bounce and that played a part in un­set­tling the In­dian bats­men on day one, and yes­ter­day their seam bowlers got car­ried away try­ing to bounce the South Africans.

That was one of the plans they tried yes­ter­day.

Like most of the oth­ers it didn’t work very well, not only be­cause they couldn’t sus­tain it, but be­cause the short balls was also poorly di­rected.

They failed to build pres­sure, and as the day wore on, they wilted and the South African bats­men thrived.

Morné Morkel en­sured there’d be no dra­matic tail-end re­vival by claim­ing the fi­nal In­dian wicket in­side the first minute of the day’s play, in the process claim­ing ca­reer-best fig­ures of 5/20.

There­after the em­pha­sis was on the In­dian seam bowlers and mainly their top two, Sree Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma, to try and match the im­pact made by Morkel and Dale Steyn on the first day.

They fell well short. It’s not that the pitch was any less lively, just that the In­di­ans had lacked the nec­es­sary ac­cu­racy and pace to trou­ble the South African open­ers, Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen.

The ab­sence of Za­heer Khan was def­i­nitely felt.

Rarely did the three seam­ers Dhoni em­ployed beat the bat, had Za­heer been play­ing he would have done so more of­ten.

South Africa’s open­ing bats­men were ex­tremely watch­ful to start with – just 19 runs were scored in the first 10 overs – but it was cer­tainly a bet­ter strat­egy to adopt than that of Viren­der Se­hwag who lasted just three balls in In­dia’s in­nings.

With the shine knocked off the ball Smith and Petersen in­creased their scor­ing tempo, with both tak­ing on the short ball with rel­ish, while Petersen played some beau­ti­ful shots through the cover re­gion.

Hav­ing seen off the seam bowlers with­out much trou­ble, they took to at­tack­ing Harb­ha­jan Singh – In­dia’s most se­nior bowler – from the start.

Petersen swept the first ball he re­ceived from the off-spin­ner over square leg for six, while Smith played a cou­ple of lovely cuts off the back­foot.

One of those brought about his down­fall but by then he’d done the main part of his job hav­ing put on 111 for the first wicket.

Petersen, who played with lots of style be­came Harb­ha­jan’s sec­ond vic­tim, just as he too looked set for a cen­tury.

But rather than pro­vid­ing a hint of an open­ing for the vis­i­tors, all those two wick­ets did was bring to­gether Hashim Amla and Jac­ques Kal­lis a duo who be­fore yes­ter­day had shared nine cen­tury part­ner­ships, two of them over 300 and an­other two over 200.

They achieved their third dou­ble cen­tury stand yester- day, and while some of their shot-mak­ing was of the high­est class, it must said In­dia’s bowl­ing couldn’t have been more puerile.

Land­marks were achieved by both; Kal­lis notched a 38th Test cen­tury – putting him third all time be­hind Ricky Ponting (39) and Sachin Ten­dulkar (49) on the list of lead­ing cen­tury-mak­ers in Tests – while Amla brought up the 12th of his ca­reer, and the fourth one in a row against In­dia this year.

Kal­lis’ in­nings was flu­ent, in keep­ing with his more at­tack­ing at­ti­tude of late, which many view as a re­sult of Amla’s steadi­ness ahead of him in the or­der.

Amla’s knock was scratchy for the most part, but no one in the South African dress­ing room was com­plain­ing.

Why would they – they lead by 230 runs, there are three days to go, Amla and Kal­lis are well set and AB de Vil­liers is still to come.

Just like the over­all theme of this se­ries, it is In­dia who have it all to prove over the re­main­der of this match. Do they have the stom­ach for the fight?

ONE TON, TWO TON: Jac­ques Kal­lis and Hashim Amla pun­ished the In­dian bowl­ing at Cen­tu­rion yes­ter­day.


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