Friday, December 29, 2006

Plot gets thicker in Durban

By John Cheeran
South Africa definitely has the advantage over India in this Test. But they need to do lot of hard work if they are to defeat India in Durban.
India, despite VVS Laxman's marathon innings of an unbeaten 50 could not quite close in on South African first innings. In the end, it is a achievement of sorts that India managed 240 in their first innings with 28 invaluable runs coming from the Kerala pace sensation S Sreesanth.
I have been hoping for percentage play from Indian batsmen but they failed to do that. Sachin Tendulkar having proved that he is in form, beat a hasty retreat.
Knowing Sourav Ganguly very well over the years, I'm not at all disappointed that the Bengal Tiger was defanged in the space of a mere two balls.
It is a pity that five of the Indian batsmen (Virender Sehwag 0, Sourav Ganguly 0, Anil Kumble 0, Zaheer Khan 2 and VRV Singh 4) could not even score five runs in the first innings. How do you then overhaul South African total 328?VVS Laxman might have had a strategy worked out for the first innings. His role was to occupy the crease and remaining unbeaten on 50 he succeeded in it. Rest of the side was supposed to go for the runs.
Except in Mahendra Singh Dhoni's and Sreesanth's case the ploy did not succeed.
Cricket is as much about weather as it is about runs and wickets. When India resumed their first innings on Thursday morning in Durban overcast conditions made batting an arduous task.
South African skipper Graeme Smith was looking for a much bigger lead than the 88-runs India eventually conceded. And with the hosts requiring quick runs to put pressure on Indian batsmen the lack of light has come as divine intervention at Durban.
This Test is now about next two days only.
Time would be a crucial player in the next two days. South Africa already have a gross lead of 152 runs and 10 second innings wickets in their hand. They need minimum 150 runs to give India a fourth innings target of 300 runs.
A lot will depend on how fast they can declare their intent. It is very important they have the force with them and it has showed they way they have gone about their second innings.
The next 180 overs will be a test of character for Indian bowlers as well as batsmen. Sreesanth and Zaheer should strike killer blows to take out the momentum from the South African second innings which will give Indian batsmen a chance to hunt down the runs needed for a win or play out the time for a draw.
Much different in substance compared to the first Test in Johannesburg, Durban is going to be thriller that is going to keep you and me on the edge of our seats.
Enjoy the cricket.

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