Clinical Proteas put quick end to Indian fightback

Hosts score an innings and 25-run win to go 1-0 up in the three-Test series

Clinical Proteas put quick end to Indian fightback

pace demon: Dale Steyn (centre) is ecstatic after dismissing last man Jaidev Unadkat. AFP

Long after victory had been secured by South Africa and an Indian defeat formalised, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men were hard at work on the 22-yard strip that had spewed such spite and venom on day one.

With the coaching staff keeping an eagle eye, India made the most of an unlikely opportunity to practice on a fifth-day match pitch which had lost a lot of its pace and bounce, but still had enough to encourage the pacemen.

The centre-wicket practice session at SuperSport Park on Monday afternoon all but confirmed that principal paceman Zaheer Khan will play in the second Test beginning in Durban on Sunday, a welcome development on a day when India crashed to a massive defeat to hand South Africa a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

One of the premier new-ball operators in world cricket, Zaheer was sorely missed in the first Test, both as strike bowler and mentor of the bowling unit. His return is a must if India entertain any hopes of a series-levelling victory in Durban, where the Proteas have lost both their last Tests – against Australia and England.

SuperSport Park has been a bastion for the home side. South Africa have lost only one Test here since their re-admission in 1992, and at no stage over four days and a bit was that record put under any threat by India, always fighting a losing battle after keeling over for 136 in the first innings.

A wonderful century from Sachin Tendulkar and Dhoni’s ability to raise his game in the face of grave adversity allowed India to push the game into the final day, but when the teams turned up on Monday morning in bright sunshine with not a cloud in the sky, no one had any doubt what the outcome was going to be.

Final nail

If anything, it was a case of when; that question was answered 26 minutes into the morning, the final nail driven fittingly by Dale Steyn as India folded up for 459 to go down by an innings and 25 runs.

It will come as scant consolation for the visitors that that tally is the highest second-innings score ever in an innings loss, or that it was only the second-highest second-innings total conceded by the Proteas in the last 18 years.

India will take some heart from their excellent fightback after their woeful ineptitude in the first innings when they had the worst of the conditions, but that will not change the score line in any manner.

India needed a miracle to survive the Test when Steyn lined up to bowl the day’s first delivery to Tendulkar. For that miracle to materialise, they needed the master and S Sreesanth to defy Steyn and Morne Morkel for as long as possible, and pray that the rains arrived at some stage to bail them out.

Neither of those requirements eventuated. Sreesanth was fired out a quarter of an hour after play began, steering Morkel to third slip, and Jaidev Unadkat’s stay was even briefer. Having survived a series of short deliveries from Steyn, he eventually succumbed in like fashion to Sreesanth, leaving Tendulkar unconquered and with mixed feelings.
Perhaps, the 37-year-old could have farmed the strike better on the last morning.
Admittedly, it would have been impossible for him to hold fort for the entire day with just ten and jack for company, but he seemed to be making South Africa’s task that much easier by picking up singles early in the over and exposing first Sreesanth and then Unadkat to at least half the over, if not more.

With the batsman showing little aggressive intent and the tail facing a majority of the bowling – only 15 of the 35 deliveries on the final morning were hurdled at Tendulkar – India were denied even the token satisfaction of avoiding an innings defeat.

Hoping to recharge their batteries after a two-day break in Sun City, India will arrive in Durban on Thursday morning desperate for a turnaround, in the absence of which their hold on the top ranking will become extremely tenuous.


Scoreboard

India: first innings 136 all out
South Africa: first innings 620/4 decl.
India second innings: (overnight 454/8)
Gautam Gambhir lbw Steyn 80
Virender Sehwag c Smith b Harris 63
Rahul Dravid c Boucher b Morkel 43
Ishant Sharma c Amla b Steyn 23
Sachin Tendulkar not out 111
V.V.S. Laxman c de Villiers b Tsotsobe 8
Suresh Raina c Harris b Kallis 5
Mahendra Singh Dhoni c Boucher b Steyn 90
Harbhajan Singh c Kallis b Harris 1
S.Sreesanth c de Villiers b Morkel 3
Jaidev Unadkat c Prince b Steyn 1
Extras: (b-13, lb-5, w-8, nb-5) 31      
Total: (all out in 128.1 overs) 459  
Fall of wickets: 1-137 (Sehwag, 29.3 overs), 2-170 (Gambhir, 39.2), 3-214 (Sharma, 54.4), 4-242 (Dravid, 64.5), 5-256 (Laxman, 72.5), 6-277 (Raina, 77.5), 7-449 (Dhoni, 118.2), 8-450 (Harbhajan Singh, 119.1), 9-456 (Sreesanth, 125.5), 10-459 (Unadkat, 128.1) 

Bowling:
Dale Steyn 30.1 6 105  4
Morne Morkel 31 6 94 2
Lonwabo Tsotsobe 24 3 98 1
Paul Harris 30 5 88 2
Jacques Kallis 13 3 56 1
Result: India lost by an innings and 25 runs.

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