One run short

Chasing 191, Graeme Smith's side appeared well in control. But the batsmen, under pressure from some tight bowling, went for “glory shots”, as the South African skipper said, and fell short. By S. Ram Mahesh.

The Great Choke continues to haunt South Africa. While they've done all they can to do away with the tag — even joking that it's something they laugh at over a beer — South Africa's cricketers haven't been able to rid themselves of it. As Indian captain M. S. Dhoni said after his bowlers had assisted South Africa in its choke, it's something South Africa can't run away from.

Chasing 191 in the second ODI, Graeme Smith's side appeared well in control on 120 for three. Then again at 152 for four. But the batsmen, under pressure from some tight bowling, went for “glory shots”, as Smith said, and fell short. One run short. Smith himself made 77 — when he was at the crease, the chase seemed a cruise. The left-hander batted adeptly on a two-paced wicket, holding his side together and accelerating the innings. But his downfall — bowled by a Munaf Patel slower ball off the inside edge — spread panic in the ranks.

Munaf, who had earlier given India the breakthrough, having Hashim Amla caught behind off a lovely in-nipper, returned to remove the last two wickets. He was deservedly Man of the Match. He later said that he was under pressure because people from his village had travelled to the Wanderers to see him bowl. He gave them plenty to celebrate.

But there were others who contributed significantly. Harbhajan Singh brought India back into the contest, retarding South Africa's momentum in the Power Play (mandatory and bowling). Ashish Nehra started like he had in Durban — miserably. But he returned courageously, removing the dangerous A. B. de Villiers. He might have had at least another wicket, but the edges didn't go to hand. Zaheer Khan's twin strikes after Smith's wicket were vital, for they created doubt by removing the last recognised batting pair, David Miller and Johan Botha. It must be recorded that Botha's ‘lbw' was an incorrect decision.

Clever attacking captaincy then helped increase the pressure on South Africa, which lost its nerve. India mightn't have had to play out of its skin under lights if it had batted better. A cautious start and a determined partnership between Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni were frittered away, as India was bowled out for 190. Like the South African innings, the decision of when to take the Batting Power Play affected the innings. Where South Africa's use of it forced Dhoni to attack and cut off the singles, India's use was ill-timed for it didn't capitalise on the set batsmen and put the new batsman under pressure. South Africa lost three for 20; India lost four for 14.

“When you go onto the field, you always have to think that you will win the game,” said Dhoni. “Of course it depends on the start the opposition gets. If they get off to a good start, if wickets don't fall in quick succession, then you feel that you will lose the game. Munaf gave us that vital early breakthrough. After that Harbhajan's contribution was really important. Everybody contributed, but Munaf's contribution was brilliant. He bowls really straight, varies his pace really well, and I think he deserves the Man of the Match award.”

THE SCORES

Second ODI, Johannesburg, January 15, 2011. India won by one run.

India: M. Vijay c Morkel b Tsotsobe 16; S. Tendulkar b Botha 24; V. Kohli (run out) 22; Yuvraj Singh c Steyn b Tsotsobe 53; M. Dhoni b Tsotsobe 38; S. Raina lbw b Tsotsobe 11; Rohit Sharma lbw b Morkel 9; Harbhajan Singh c Miller b Morkel 3; Zaheer Khan c Tsotsobe b Steyn 0; A. Nehra c Botha b Steyn 1; Munaf Patel (not out) 6; Extras (lb-4, w-3) 7. Total (in 47.2 overs) 190.

Fall of wickets: 1-21, 2-63, 3-67, 4-150, 5-169, 6-172, 7-177, 8-179, 9-184.

South Africa bowling: Steyn 9.2-1-35-2; Tsotsobe 10-2-22-4; Parnell 7-0-43-0; Morkel 8-0-32-2; Botha 10-0-35-1; Duminy 3-0-19-0.

South Africa: H. Amla c Dhoni b Munaf 4; G. Smith b Munaf 77; C. Ingram lbw b Harbhajan 25; A. B. de Villiers c Dhoni b Nehra 8; J. P. Duminy c Vijay b Rohit 13; D. Miller c sub b Zaheer 27; J. Botha lbw b Zaheer 4; W. Parnell c Yuvraj b Munaf 12; D. Steyn (run out) 6; M. Morkel c sub b Munaf 6; L. Tsotsobe (not out) 1; Extras (lb-5, w-1) 6. Total (in 43 overs) 189.

Fall of wickets: 1-7, 2-66, 3-77, 4-120, 5-152, 6-160, 7-163, 8-177, 9-188.

India bowling: Zaheer 9-0-37-2; Munaf 8-0-29-4; Nehra 7-1-44-1; Harbhajan 10-0-32-1; Raina 6-0-27-0; Rohit 2-0-12-1; Yuvraj 1-0-3-0.