Kirsten pleased with Zaheer's performance

Zaheer Khan celebrates with Rahul Dravid after dismissing Tillakaratne Dilshan. REUTERS

The left-arm paceman, who hasn’t played for country since injuring his left shoulder during IPL II in May, took two for 45 from 15 good overs on day two of the first Test against Sri Lanka, drawing words of praise from coach Gary Kirsten.

“It was exciting to see him bowl, it's good to have him back,” the South African said on Tuesday evening. “He's a very experienced and very clever bowler. For his first time back, I thought he bowled exceptionally well.”

The reverse swing Zaheer and Ishant Sharma had used to scuttle Australia last year wasn’t on view on Tuesday. “We were hoping for a bit more,” Kirsten conceded. “In conditions like these, it does help to get the ball to reverse. It's not an abrasive surface and the outfield's pretty good. The table around the pitch is pretty green, so the ball stays in pretty good condition and doesn’t aid reverse.”

Kirsten had a pat for offie Harbhajan Singh, who finished with none for 72 from 20 overs. “He bowled really well, with as good a rhythm as I've seen him bowl for a while.

“He was very happy with his performance today. Let's bear in mind that it's a good wicket for batting. Amit (Mishra) hasn't bowled for a while, he hasn't had much game time. He would like his rhythm to have been a little bit better, but that's going to happen.” Asked if Mishra wouldn’t have been better off playing a Ranji game or two instead of warming the bench during the one-day series against Australia, Kirsten replied, “It's always difficult. You need to have subs. You need to have people around and available if someone does an ankle on the morning of a game. Amit didn't play at all in the one-dayers, but we needed him there just in case someone picked up an injury.”
On India’s batting, he said, “It was a tremendous effort to get from 32 for four to 426.

For me, the game's pretty even at the moment. It's a good wicket to bat on and hopefully, it'll start taking more and more turn as the game goes on. Bowling last on that pitch will suit us.”

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