Bhajji plots Proteas collapse

Bhajji plots Proteas collapse

Amla, Petersen tons put to shade as India storms back into the Test

Bhajji plots Proteas collapse

GIMME TEN: Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh celebrate the dismissal of a South African batsman during the first day of the second Test Match at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday. PTI

However, the much-needed spark came in the shape of Harbhajan Singh’s off-spin in the last session as the hosts surged ahead of South Africa on the first day of the second Test at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday.

The visitors fell headlong from the heights of 218 for one to finish the day at 266 for nine, losing seven wickets for 38 runs in that extraordinary post-tea session alone. After the early return of Graeme Smith, South Africans thwarted India’s ambitions of quick breakthroughs through a 209-run second wicket alliance between Hashim Amla and debutant Alviro Petersen, both managing to register a century each against their names.

But Zaheer Khan jettisoned Petersen to signal India’s comeback into the match, a process that attained full bloom when Harbhajan returned for a spell in the post-tea session. The wily off-spinner was a pale shadow of his bamboozling self in the first Test at Nagpur, struggling mightly against the broad blade of Jacques Kallis.

The “Turbanator” started his dance of destruction, ejecting Kallis before he gained his rhythm. But it was only the appetiser as Harbhajan soon came up with the main course, dismissing horribly out of sorts Ashwell Prince and Jean-Paul Duminy in successive balls during a post-tea burst that read 12-2-21-3. The brilliant passage of play also brought Harbhajan a rare honour as he completed 350 wickets in Tests, only the third Indian bowler after Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble to achieve the feat.

It was quite understandable then to hear coach Gary Kirsten praising the effort. “The South Africans played Harbhajan well in Nagpur, so he needed to come up with ways of being able to take wickets. I have been very confident that his rhythm has gone better and better. We knew he is the strike bowler of our team, so when the confidence is good, he is going to get wickets.”

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