Gone in 20 overs

A. B. de Villiers... a memorable double hundred.-PICS. K. R. DEEPAK

The Indian batsmen fell to recklessness. Virender Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer, having had a great time in Chennai, gave themselves little time to understand the requirements of batting on the wicket. Nandita Sridhar reports.

Batting seldom looked more lacklustre. In 20 overs, a Test match was decided. Ever since India surrendered to South Africa on the opening day of the Ahmedabad Test, an equally appalling performance by South Africa was needed to make a contest out of it. But that did not happen.

The Chennai Test had given the Ahmedabad wicket undue importance. The sheet of green meant to bind the top soil had been spoken and written about extensively.

The wicket had little in it to create such a panic. Instead of being watchful to start with, one witnessed meaningless shot-selection by the Indian batsmen. They were caught between their instincts and the nature of the wicket.

The South African bowlers were rewarded for playing to their strengths. Makhaya Ntini kept it close to the off-stump. Dale Steyn was quick and had a remarkable mastery over swing.

The Indian batsmen fell to recklessness. Virender Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer, having had a great time in Chennai, gave themselves little time to understand the requirements of batting on the wicket.

Jaffer was probed with deliveries pitching on off and moving in and thereby causing him discomfort. Sehwag, who had driven with conviction and ease in Chennai, was bowled driving on the wrong wicket, against Steyn’s pace.

The rest of the batting line-up was consumed by indecisiveness and inexcusable execution. Laxman misread the bounce, Rahul Dravid was felled by Steyn’s pace and swing, while Sourav Ganguly was hesitant in going through with his shot. M. S. Dhoni swung wildly at one that deserved better. India was back before lunch, hoping something similar would unfold for South Africa.

India’s capitulation carried with it a lack of intensity. As one saw in Chennai where the side seemed flat, the under-whelming batting at Ahmedabad wasn’t a reflection of skill but of focus.

Dale Steyn, who picked up five wickets in the first innings, felt the Indians lacked a gameplan. “I’m not too surprised. That’s the vibe they’ve given off to us. Once one or two wickets fall and things kind of go wrong they are pretty weak and the batsmen to follow didn’t look they knew what they wanted to do. They didn’t have a gameplan or strategy. They were bowled out for 76, and I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have a gameplan or strategy.”

Jacques Kallis, another great innings.-

South Africa made India pay for its lapse by efficient batting that played the percentages. A. B. de Villiers’s unbeaten 217 was riskless. He showed a willingness to wait for the loose deliveries, which was consistently on offer by the listless Indian bowling attack.

De Villiers became the first South African to score a double hundred against India. The innings was well paced and the shot-selection was judicious. The spinners were picked with ease, with adept footwork, reflecting South Africa’s improvement in playing spin.

Jacques Kallis offered good support with a typically solid century. His concessions to force, the pull-shots off Sreesanth, were occasional luxuries, but the innings was largely typical of the ones that had fetched most of his 29 centuries before this one.

Kallis and De Villiers denied India any chance of atonement. A few top-order wickets that could have proved threatening made no difference, with the two imposing themselves on the Indians.

The Indian bowling had little penetration. Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble excelled in patches. But the pace bowling let the team down. Irfan Pathan and R. P. Singh didn’t look threatening at any stage. Sreesanth bowled good spells in spurts, but lacked repeated efforts.

Sourav Ganguly and M. S. Dhoni put on a 110-run partnership that prolonged the Indian second innings, and nothing more. Ganguly, whose place in the squad was under question after his failures in Australia, thrived on India’s need for survival. He needed to hang on, and did so commendably.

South African captain Graeme Smith was thrilled at his team’s performance. “Everyone showed their mettle. It is one of those things which you really got to enjoy. We’ve been really focussed about this series and the things we wanted to achieve. Obviously winning the series and doing what it takes to come first are one of those things.

“We have worked towards this day for a long time. It’s the start of a big season for us, the first big tour. It’s fantastic to be up 1-0. As a captain this is the first time I feel I have a bowling attack that can be successful in the sub-continent. I think all the batters are comfortable in their roles and have performed well right through Pakistan, until now.”

THE SCORES

Second Test, Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad, April 3 to 5. South Africa won by an innings and 90 runs.

India 1st innings: W. Jaffer c Smith b Ntini 9; V. Sehwag b Steyn 6; R. Dravid b Steyn 3; V. V. S. Laxman b Ntini 3; S. C. Ganguly b Ntini 0; M. S. Dhoni c Boucher b Morkel 14; I. K. Pathan (not out) 21; A. Kumble b Morkel 0; Harbhajan Singh lbw b Steyn 1; R. P. Singh c Smith b Steyn 0; S. Sreesanth b Steyn 0; Extras (b 4, lb 11, w 2, nb 2) 19; Total 76.

Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-24, 3-30, 4-30, 5-53, 6-55, 7-55, 8-56, 9-76.

South Africa bowling: Steyn 8-2-23-5; Ntini 6-1-18-3; Morkel 6-1-20-2.

South Africa 1st innings: G. C. Smith lbw b Sreesanth 34; N. D. McKenzie c Dravid b Harbhajan Singh 42; H. M. Amla c Jaffer b Harbhajan Singh 16; J. H. Kallis b Sreesanth 132; A. G. Prince lbw b Harbhajan Singh 2; A. B. de Villiers (not out) 217; M. V. Boucher lbw b Kumble 21; M. Morkel lbw b Harbhajan Singh 1; P. L. Harris (not out) 9; Extras (b 2, lb 14, w 4) 20; Total (for seven wkts decl.) 494.

Fall of wickets: 1-78, 2-100, 3-101, 4-117, 5-373, 6-439, 7-452.

India bowling: Sreesanth 23-4-87-2; R. P. Singh 21-2-81-0; Pathan 21.2-3-85-0; Harbhajan Singh 40-5-135-4; Kumble 33-2-78-1; Ganguly 3-0-12-0.

India 2nd innings: V. Sehwag lbw b Ntini 17; W. Jaffer c de Villiers b Kallis 19; R. Dravid c de Villiers b Morkel 17; V. V. S. Laxman c Boucher b Morkel 35; S. C. Ganguly c Boucher b Steyn 87; M. S. Dhoni c Smith b Ntini 52; I. K. Pathan (not out) 43; A. Kumble b Harris 5; Harbhajan Singh lbw b Steyn 4; R. P. Singh c Kallis b Steyn 8; S. Sreesanth b Ntini 17; Extras (b 5, lb 7, w 7, nb 5) 24; Total 328.

Fall of wickets: 1-31, 2-64, 3-70, 4-125, 5-235, 6-268, 7-273, 8-292, 9-306.

South Africa bowling: Steyn 23-1-91-3; Ntini 16.2-3-44-3; Morkel 20-0-87-2; Kallis 10-3-26-1; Harris 25-4-68-1.