McKenzie scores century as Test headed for draw

March 30th, 2008 - 4:33 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh
By Anand Philar
Chennai, March 30 (IANS) Neil McKenzie struck an unbeaten 139 and guided South Africa to absolute safety at tea on the fifth day of the first cricket Test here Sunday. The visitors, trailing by 87 runs on the first innings, were 298 for four at tea with India virtually throwing in the towel.

McKenzie’s fourth Test century (139, 289 balls, 386min, 13×4, 1×6) was of only interest during the post-lunch session while Harbhajan Singh injected some excitement by taking two wickets in 11 deliveries, sending back Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince.

Skipper Anil 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 would be explained after the game, it was announced.

Earlier, two dropped catches perhaps shut the door on India’s hopes of a victory as South Africa went to lunch at 212 for two.

Hashim Amla enjoyed a life 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 Anil Kumble to Rahul Dravid at slips, close to lunch after making 81 (148b, 9×4).

At the other end, McKenzie looked as solid as he did in the first innings when he made 94.

With an unrelenting sun beating down on the 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 appeared resigned to a draw.

Neither Kumble nor Harbhajan, came anywhere close to taking wickets nor did the fast bowlers, Sreesanth and RP Singh troubled 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 the morning’s play was another indication of the most likely outcome in this match and as lunch approached, even the 15,000 crowd grew silent, but roared back to life on Amla’s dismissal.

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