Zaheer, Bhajji trigger SA collapse

Zaheer, Bhajji trigger SA collapse

Cricket : Second Test: Amla, Petersen slam hundreds but India storm back to wrest control in post-tea session

Zaheer, Bhajji trigger SA collapse

Indian cricketers Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh jubiliate South African batsman AB de Villiers (background) is run out during the first day of 2nd Test Match at Eden Garden in Kolkata on Sunday. PTI Desperately requiring to win the second Test against South Africa to preserve their awesome home record, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men were rocked by a double-century second-wicket stand between debutant Alviro Petersen and familiar tormentor Hashim Amla after skipper Graeme Smith had again fallen cheaply.

At 218 for one with tea a quarter of an hour away, South Africa were primed to make the most of Smith’s luck with the toss, like in the first Test, when Zaheer Khan elicited a loose drive to evict Petersen. India then climbed all over the opposition, a mesmeric post-tea burst of seven for 38 reducing the Proteas to 266 for nine when bad light prematurely halted Sunday’s play.

The Indian bowling, largely toothless during the Petersen-Amla tandem, grew fangs after tea, Harbhajan Singh finally looking somewhere near his best and Ishant Sharma combining hostility with pace to shake South Africa out of their comfort zone. A game that appeared to be drifting away was hauled back in spectacular fashion through a combination of pace and spin, as well as athletic ground fielding and one special catch from VVS Laxman, who atoned for spilling Amla (114, 227m, 166b, 14x4, 1x6) off Harbhajan when on 60.

In some ways, India also had the rub of the green going their way post-tea for the first time in the series. Petersen’s belated Test debut, at 29, owed itself to Mark Boucher having to sit out with back spasms. The experienced stumper’s absence, coupled with the presence of two out-of-form left-handers in the middle-order, offered a soft underbelly to be exploited. To India’s credit, they capitalised brilliantly as Harbhajan finally reaped rewards for a vastly improved performance.

There was little sign of the mayhem to follow when Petersen (100, 226m, 164b, 16x4) and Amla were on song. United in the fourth over after Smith was bowled through the gate by a beauty from Zaheer that came back a mile, the two right-handers went on the attack, Amla clearly high on confidence after his unbeaten 253 and Petersen batting with a poise and assurance hardly associated with a debutant.

Their cause was furthered by Ishant’s profligacy and Zaheer’s rare indiscretion on a track that offered little joy for the bowlers apart from bounce once the early juice evaporated.
While Amla was classy in driving through the covers, Petersen was even more impressive, quick to get into position and mixing power with finesse in a wonderful initiation that seemed to suggest he ought to have got his Test cap long back.

During that period, India failed miserably to exert any pressure. The control so necessary to make batsmen work for their runs was conspicuously absent and Amit Mishra offered at least one boundary-ball an over that was put away gleefully, even if the leggie had genuine reason to believe that twice, umpire Gould denied him Petersen’s scalp to leg before appeals.

Amla beat Petersen to three figures with a flurry of boundaries, not all of them off the meat of the blade, and the latter soon became only the third South African to score a century on debut. Then began the fun and games.

Three deliveries after reaching hundred, Petersen flashed at a wide one from Zaheer to end the stand at 209 (215m, 304b). Unlike in Nagpur, though, South Africa didn’t back it up as India came roaring back. Zaheer triggered the rout by having Amla caught behind in the first over on resumption to an ambitious pull from well outside off, then ceded centre stage to Harbhajan.

Under pressure after his recent ordinary run, the off-spinner arrived here armed with a plan that revolved around an outside off line and generous use of the top-spinner. It was a toppie that evicted Kallis, superbly caught by Laxman running towards short fine from slip as the batsman top-edged a slog sweep.

The horribly out of sorts Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy fell in identical fashion, plumb in front, Duminy becoming Harbhajan’s 350th Test victim. When Zaheer showed remarkable athleticism and accuracy to run AB de Villiers out with a direct hit, India were buzzing. What a turnaround!

South Africa first innings:

Graeme Smith                             b Khan              4

Alviro Petersen                           c Dhoni b Khan            100

HM Amla                                      c Dhoni b Khan            114

Jacques Kallis                            c Laxman b Harbhajan Singh  10

AB de Villiers                             run out (Khan)          12

Ashwell Prince                          lbw b Harbhajan Singh   1

JP Duminy                                   lbw b Harbhajan Singh   0

Dale Steyn                                 lbw b Misra             5

Paul Harris                             c Dhoni b Sharma            1

Wayne Parnell                           not out                 2

Morne Morkel                             not out                 3

Extras (B 1, LB 4, NB 9)                     14

Total (For nine wickets in 70.2 overs)      266
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 21-5-77-3, Ishant Sharma 17-3-56-1, Amit Mishra 20-3-68-1, Harbhajan Singh 23-2-60-3.

Day 1 highlights

* Alviro Nathan Petersen born on November 25, 1980 at Port Elizabeth, Cape Province became 307th player to represent South Africa in Test cricket. The right-hander batsman has already played in one-day international cricket having made his debut against Zimbabwe at East London on 18-Sep-2006

* Petersen became only the third South African batsman to score a century on debut. Andrew Hudson (163 vs W Indies at Bridge Town on 19-Apr-1992) and Jacques Rudolph (222* vs Bangladesh at Chittagong on 25-Apr-2003) are the other two.
n Petersen is the tenth batsman to score a century on debut against India and sixth in India.

* The partnership of 209 runs for the second wicket between Petersen and Amla is the fifth 200 plus partnerships for South Africa against India. The 340 runs for the third wicket compiled by Amla and Kallis in the previous Test at Nagpur is the highest ever for the Proteas against India.

* With 791 runs already in nine Tests, Amla has become the second highest run accumulator for SA against India surpassing Gary Kirsten’s 720 runs in 10 Tests.  Jacques Kallis is the highest scorer with 1067 runs in 13 tests.

* Harbhajan Singh, who tormented the Proteas with three for 60, reached personal mile stone of reaching 350 wickets in Test cricket.  He achieved this land mark playing in his 83rd Test.

* He is the fourth slow bowler in Test cricket to aggregate over 350 wickets and is in the elite company of Muralitharan (792 in 132 Tests), Shane Warne (708 in 145 Tests) and Anil Kumble (619 in 132 Tests) who are the leading slow bowlers.
K R Gururaja Rao

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