First India-South Africa Test ends in tame draw

March 30th, 2008 - 7:29 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh
(Overall lead)
By Anand Philar
Chennai, March 30 (IANS) The first cricket Test between India and South Africa expectedly ended in a tame draw here Sunday. Any other outcome was not even remotely possible. Batsmen, led by triple centurion Virender Sehwag, ruled the roost while the bowlers toiled hard in the hot and humid weather throughout the match. Trailing by 87 runs on the first innings, South Africa declared their second innings at 331 for five and with it the match was called off, with 14 overs remaining to be bowled on the fifth and final day at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.

The docile pitch did its bit to contribute to the draw while helping Man-of-Match Sehwag (career-best 319) and Rahul Dravid (10,000 runs and 25th Test century) attain personal milestones.

A total of 1,498 runs were scored over five days and only 25 wickets fell, bettering the previous highest aggregate of 1,488 for 32 wickets in the second tied Test in 1986-87 between India and Australia at the same venue.

Of some interest from South Africa’s point of view on the concluding day was the century by opener Neil McKenzie, who defied Indian pretensions with yet another solid unbeaten knock of 155 (339 balls, 13×4s, 1×6) that followed his first innings effort of 94.

Lending him support this morning was Hashim Amla, the first innings centurion, who compiled 81 (148 balls, 9×4s) after surviving two lives.

Amla was let off when on 55 and again on 72 with Sreesanth dropping him off Harbhajan and then Rudra Pratap Singh fumbling with a return catch. However, he edged a delivery from captain Anil Kumble to Dravid at slips just before lunch.

More important, McKenzie and Amla saw off 46.3 overs while putting on 157 for the second wicket and thus guiding South Africa to safety and also ensuring a draw.

In the post-lunch session, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh injected some excitement by taking two wickets in 11 deliveries, sending back Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince.

Kumble was off the field for much of the second session owing to “slight groin strain” while Sachin Tendulkar, made frequent visits to the pavilion and the reasons for which could not be immediately ascertained.

Stand-in skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni virtually declared a truce when he brought on V.V.S. Laxman to bowl his innocuous off-breaks as the tea break neared, but after South Africa had lost two more wickets, those of Ashwell Prince and A.B. de Villiers. But the two dismissals had little impact on the match but only provided Harbhajan his third wicket of the innings and Sehwag his first.

In the final session of the match, India took the second new ball after 104 bowlers. Dhoni had Harbhajan and Sehwag sharing the new ball to lend a farcical note to the proceedings as the players merely went through the motions.

With an unrelenting sun beating down on the hapless cricketers and the South African batsmen as remorseless in their approach, the on-field proceedings lacked the intensity of the previous four days with the Indians appearing resigned to a draw.

Neither Kumble nor Harbhajan came anywhere close to taking wickets early on, nor did the fast bowlers Sreesanth and Rudra Pratap Singh trouble the batsmen on a pitch that had no demons in it.

Kumble did give it his best shot in terms of bowling changes, unorthodox field placements in a bid to open up the game, but on the day nothing quite worked to his plans.

The overall pace of play was another indication of the most likely outcome in this match and even the 15,000-strong crowd grew silent, but roaring back to life when wickets fell.

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