Indian bowlers revel

Wasim Jaffer takes a great catch to dismiss Hashim Amla and the successful bowler is Harbhajan Singh.-AP

The Indians seemed in control from the first day, restricting South Africa to 265. The wicket, at the end of day one, was layered with dust, as batsmen struggled to gauge the bounce and the unexpected turn. Nandita Sridhar reports.

The 1-1 result at the end was what one would have expected. India’s capitulation at Ahmedabad had led to endless speculation on how the Kanpur wicket would play. Two days before the final Test, one foresaw a quick finish. The wicket had enough cracks for it to deteriorate on the first day. In the context of the situation and the wicket, Man of the Match Sourav Ganguly’s first innings score of 87 saved India from a worrying deficit and led the team to a lead of possibilities.

The Indian bowlers, to their credit, utilised the conditions well in inflicting the eight-wicket defeat on South Africa. M. S. Dhoni, who became the first wicket-keeper to lead India in Tests, pulled off some smart bowling moves.

Opening with Man of the Series Harbhajan Singh in South Africa’s second innings was one such. The captain, who took charge in Anil Kumble’s absence, who was out due to a groin injury, had short-leg and silly point in position immediately. The spin was spiteful, and the bounce indiscernible.

“We knew it would turn right away, and since the seam was more prominent, there would be more bounce. We also wanted a seamer-spinner combination on. It kept the pacers fresh,” said Dhoni on the tactic.

The Indians seemed in control from the first day, in restricting South Africa to 265. The wicket, at the end of day one, was layered with dust, as batsmen struggled to gauge the bounce and the unexpected turn.

South Africa’s start wasn’t insubstantial, but wickets fells consistently after tea, to give India a possible advantage. Despite that, there were no guarantees for India on a wicket where the ball was going through the top as often as it stayed below knee level. Ishant Sharma had the tail in a struggle, while Harbhajan, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag benefited from the wicket.

India’s response upfront was edgy. Virender Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer perished to the vagaries of the wicket. Fast bowler Dale Steyn bowled short to Sehwag and found a crack thereafter that had the opener in doubt. A half-baked defence cost him his wicket. Once Jaffer departed, V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid kept things steady despite seeming uncomfortable in dealing with the bounce.

Laxman played left-arm spinner Paul Harris impeccably, taking him on against the turn for boundaries through mid-wicket. There were shots that could have consumed him, but the batsman was fortunate enough to survive, and courageous enough not to let it affect his batting.

Sourav Ganguly with the Man of the Match Trophy. His 87 in the first essay proved quite valuable.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Dravid was a suitable anchor, and looked set for an extended period of batting, before Morne Morkel’s delivery climbed with all its venom to hit him at the end of his glove. Laxman was bowled when he failed to pick Morkel’s movement.

Sourav Ganguly walked in, needing to score more than ever in the recent past. The left-hander was remarkably poised after the first few deliveries he took to settle. Morkel was dispatched through the leg-side, but it was Harris who was treated with disdain. Ganguly’s comfort against spin was visible with the use of his feet. Harris posed little problems.

“My intention was to be positive, and keep the scoreboard ticking, which was the only way to ease the pressure. I knew that there would be balls going through the top, but I decided to concentrate more on the normal deliveries than those ones,” said Ganguly.

Ganguly’s knock was invaluable, but the 10th wicket partnership between Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma had its thrilling moments. They put on 46 runs to frustrate South Africa. Such partnerships eat into a bowling side. India got more than what it bargained for, with a lead of 60.

Dhoni’s field-placings and his bowling changes assured a quick finish. The visiting batsmen were caught in a defensive trap. McKenzie fell to needless aggression, but the rest were indecisive. Hashim Amla defended without conviction, Jacques Kallis couldn’t keep a Sehwag delivery down, and captain Graeme Smith was bowled round his legs. Dhoni’s decision to bring Sehwag on worked. Not much was expected from the rest of the South African line-up, after Dhoni brought Ishant on. India scored its runs with ease.

India’s win was more commendable because of the response the side managed to Sachin Tendulkar’s and Anil Kumble’s absence. Dhoni was pleased with the effort. “It’s pretty hard to replace a man like Kumble, specially on such a wicket. Had he played, I don’t think this would have lasted three days. We did well, but it doesn’t mean we are better off without Sachin or Kumble. Who is there to replace them? It is better to have them in the side, but credit to the boys for doing well in their absence.

“After Chennai, we wanted to win but lost the Ahmedabad game. We needed to win here and that’s what we did, so overall we are pretty happy.” The series will remain in memory for one incredible innings and two remarkable collapses. Sehwag’s triple century seems a distant memory, after India’s meek show on the first day of Ahmedabad Test, and South Africa’s awkwardness on what turned out to be the final day at Kanpur. Two consecutive three-day finishes did not accurately reflect the stature of the two teams.

Smith, whose side had come off series wins in Pakistan and Bangladesh before the Indian tour, was satisfied with the result.

“It’s been a terrific season. We won in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and were up against a very good Indian team here. Earlier, no one had given us a chance to do well in the sub-continent, so we’re pretty pleased.”

The Scores

Third Test, Green Park, Kanpur, April 11 to 13. India won by eight wickets.

South Africa 1st innings: N. D. McKenzie st. Dhoni b Chawla 36; G. C. Smith c Jaffer b Yuvraj Singh 69; H. M. Amla b Sharma 51; J. H. Kallis b Harbhajan Singh 1; A. G. Prince lbw b Sehwag 16; A. B. de Villiers c Ganguly b Chawla 25; M. V. Boucher b Sharma 29; M. Morkel c Dravid b Harbhajan Singh 17; P. L. Harris b Sharma 12; D. W. Steyn c Kaif (sub) b Harbhajan Singh 0; M. Ntini (not out) 0; Extras (lb 3, w 2, nb 4) 9; Total 265.

Fall of wickets: 1-61, 2-152, 3-160, 4-161, 5-199, 6-215, 7-241, 8-264, 9-265.

India bowling: Sreesanth 11-0-32-0; Sharma 12.3-1-55-3; Harbhajan Singh 31-9-52-3; Chawla 16-3-66-2; Yuvraj Singh 11-1-39-1; Sehwag 6-2-18-1.

India 1st innings: W. Jaffer lbw b Morkel 15; V. Sehwag lbw b Steyn 8; R. Dravid c de Villiers b Morkel 29; V. V. S. Laxman b Morkel 50; S. C. Ganguly c Amla b Steyn 87; Yuvraj Singh c de Villiers b Harris 32; M. S. Dhoni st. Boucher b Harris 32; Harbhajan Singh lbw b Steyn 6; P. P. Chawla c Smith b Ntini 4; S. Sreesanth c Prince b Harris 29; I. Sharma (not out) 14; Extras (b 8, lb 6, w 1, nb 4) 19; Total 325.

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-35, 3-113, 4-123, 5-188, 6-248, 7-268, 8-279, 9-279.

South Africa bowling: Steyn 20-1-71-3; Ntini 21-7-47-1; Morkel 15-2-63-3; Harris 32.4-8-101-3; Kallis 9-1-23-0; Amla 2-0-6-0.

South Africa 2nd innings: N. D. McKenzie lbw b Sreesanth 14; G. C. Smith b Sehwag 35; H. M. Amla c Jaffer b Harbhajan Singh 0; J. H. Kallis c Jaffer b Sehwag 15; A. G. Prince (not out) 22; A. B. de Villiers c Laxman b Harbhajan Singh 7; M. V. Boucher c Dhoni b Sharma 5; M. Morkel b Sharma 0; P. L. Harris c Dravid b Harbhajan Singh 0; D. W. Steyn b Harbhajan Singh 7; M. Ntini c Ganguly b Sehwag 0; Extras (b 12, lb 1, w 1, nb 2) 16; Total 121.

Fall of wickets: 1-26, 2-27, 3-65, 4-72, 5-90, 6-101, 7-101, 8-102, 9-114.

India bowling: Harbhajan Singh 23-7-44-4; Sharma 10-2-18-2; Sreesanth 9-4-9-1; Chawla 4-0-18-0; Sehwag 8.5-2-12-3; Yuvraj Singh 1-0-7-0.

India 2nd innings: W. Jaffer lbw b Morkel 10; V. Sehwag c Prince b Harris 22; S. C. Ganguly (not out) 13; R. Dravid (not out) 18; Extras (nb 1) 1; Total (for two wkts.) 64.

Fall of wickets: 1-32, 2-32.

South Africa bowling: Steyn 2-0-15-0; Ntini 1-0-5-0; Harris 5.1-0-36-1; Morkel 5-1-8-1.