Bowlers keep game in balance

Record 18 wickets fall for 245 runs on bizzare day at Kingsmead; India ahead by 166 runs

Bowlers keep game in balance

From a distance, there was little explanation for the fall of 18 wickets on a dramatic second day of the second Test, at the end of which the match hung fascinatingly in the balance.

The sun was out at various stages for varying periods of time, the pitch didn’t have the same venom of day one, suggesting that batting should be far easier than on Sunday. Then again, that was from a distance only.

Out in the middle, where all the drama was compacted in six and a half hours of gripping action, South Africa and India jousted for supremacy. Fortunes oscillated wildly, and when bad light halted the entertainment, it was difficult to see who had their noses in front.

The calm of VVS Laxman, matched by the ice-cool temperament of Cheteshwar Pujara, temporarily halted a rut to steer India to 92 for four and an overall lead of 166, this after Zaheer Khan (3/36) and Harbhajan Singh (4/10) had joined forces to skittle the Proteas for a measly 131.

Amidst all this craziness, it is easy to forget that India resumed their first innings on 183 for six. The visitors added just 22 more, being bowled out for 205 as Dale Steyn took two further wickets to finish with six for 50, his 15th five-for in Test cricket. All that made for 245 runs scored and a Durban record 18 wickets in a day from 77.2 overs and 392 minutes. How does one make sense of such numbers?!

The two Indian collapses sandwiched a wonderful display of seam and swing bowling from Zaheer and a tantalising spell of off-spin from Harbhajan, who thrived on the bounce to make life miserable for the lower-order. Harbhajan, though, will be the first to acknowledge that the star of the day was Zaheer, who showed just how much India had
missed him in Centurion.

For long periods at the start of the South African innings, Zaheer was ploughing a lone furrow, S Sreesanth repeatedly straying down leg and Ishant Sharma plagued by the over-stepping malaise. All through, the senior pro was his impeccable, crafty self, striking twice in his first spell – he picked up Graeme Smith for the fifth time in eight Tests – and building enough pressure all on his own.

The rub of the green that has so eluded India finally materialised through the fortuitous dismissals of Alviro Petersen, bowling off his thigh pad, and more crucially, Jacques Kallis, run out at the non-striker’s end backing up when Ishant deflected a Hashim Amla back-drive on to the stumps. India then inexorably whittled away at the feeble resistance, Sreesanth’s dream ball that left AB de Villiers late and found the outside edge at the stroke of lunch opening the floodgates.

South Africa lost six for 35 in 74 deliveries, Harbhajan finishing with wondrous figures of four for 10 from 7.2 overs. There was some turn and no little bounce, and once he struck in his second over to trap the fluent Amla in front, he was all over the Proteas like a bad rash.

He was helped by two exceptional catches, at slip by Rahul Dravid – whose 200th catch was also the 50th off Harbhajan’s bowling – and at short-leg by Pujara as India shot the hosts out in just over three hours.

Armed with a handy advantage, India began like a house on fire, Virender Sehwag laying into Steyn with gusto. Runs flowed at spectacular pace and South Africa were rattled when India brought pressure upon themselves with three extremely poor strokes to wide deliveries outside off, the culpable parties answering to the names of Sehwag, Dravid and Tendulkar.

Murali Vijay fell victim to a snorter from Morne Morkel as India lost four for 14 after an opening stand of 42, and seemed set to fritter away the bowlers’ good work. Laxman, unhurried, and Pujara calmed nerves with a stand worth 36, but India need several more from this pair, and the rest of the line-up, to entertain any hopes of a series-levelling victory.

Scoreboard

INDIA (I Innings. O/n: 183/6):
Dhoni c Petersen b Steyn    35
(110m, 57b, 3x4, 1x6)
Harbhajan c de Villiers b Steyn    21
(49m, 39b, 2x4)
Zaheer c Boucher b Morkel    0
(8m, 5b)
Ishant (not out)    1
(17m, 9b)
Sreesanth c Boucher b Morkel    0
(3m, 1b)
Extras (B-1, LB-2, W-4, NB-2)    9
Total (all out, 65.1 overs)    205
Fall of wickets: 1-43 (Sehwag), 2-48 (Vijay), 3-79 (Tendulkar), 4-117 (Dravid), 5-130 (Laxman), 6-156 (Pujara), 7-190 (Harbhajan), 8-193 (Zaheer), 9-205 (Dhoni).
Bowling: Steyn 19-6-50-6, Morkel 19.1-3-68-2 (nb-2), Tsotsobe 11-3-40-2 (w-3), Kallis 8-2-18-0 (w-1), Harris 8-1-26-0.
SOUTH AFRICA (I Innings):
Petersen b Zaheer    24
(54m, 39b, 3x4)
Smith c Dhoni b Zaheer    9
(23m, 11b, 2x4)
Amla lbw Harbhajan    33
(107m, 46b, 5x4)
Kallis (run out)    10
(27m, 17b, 2x4)
De Villiers c Dhoni b Sreesanth    0
(7m, 5b)
Prince b Zaheer    13
(48m, 46b, 2x4)
Boucher (not out)    16
(60m, 24b, 2x4)
Steyn c Dravid b Harbhajan    1
(11m, 11b)
Harris c Pujara b Harbhajan     0
(4m, 5b)
Morkel c Harbhajan b Ishant    10
(31m, 30b, 1x4)
Tsotsobe c Vijay b Harbhajan    0
(5m, 2b)
Extras (LB-2, W-1, NB-12)    15
Total (all out, 37.2 overs)    131
Fall of wickets: 1-23 (Smith), 2-46 (Petersen), 3-67 (Kallis), 4-74 (De Villiers), 5-96 (Amla), 6-100 (Prince), 7-103 (Steyn), 8-103 (Harris), 9-127 (Morkel).
Bowling: Zaheer 13-2-36-3, Sreesanth 8-0-41-1 (w-1, nb-5), Ishant 9-2-42-1 (nb-7), Harbhajan 7.2-2-10-4.
INDIA (II Innings):
Sehwag c Boucher b Tsotsobe    32
(43m, 31b, 6x4)
Vijay c Amla b Morkel    9
(55m, 27b, 1x4)
Dravid c Boucher b Tsotsobe    2
(17m, 7b)
Tendulkar c de Villiers b Steyn    6
(21m, 10b, 1x4)
Laxman (batting)    23
(92m, 59b, 4x4)
Pujara (batting)    10
(76m, 51b, 1x4)
Extras (B-2, LB-4, W-4)    10
Total (for 4 wkts, 30.5 overs)    92
Fall of wickets: 1-42 (Sehwag), 2-44 (Vijay), 3-48 (Dravid), 4-56 (Tendulkar).
Bowling: Steyn 7-1-27-1 (w-1), Morkel 7-1-17-1 (w-1), Tsotsobe 6.5-2-16-2 (w-1), Kallis 6-1-18-0 (w-1), Harris 4-1-8-0.

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