Sehwag’s onslaught leaves Proteas running for cover

March 28th, 2008 - 8:23 pm ICT by admin  

By Anand Philar
Chennai, March 28 (IANS) Virender Sehwag butchered the South African attack to mincemeat en route to Test cricket’s fastest triple-century as India raced to 468 for one in the first innings at stumps on day three of the first Test here. A belligerent Sehwag struck 309 off just 292 deliveries (42 x 4, 5 x 6) tearing apart many records and joined the elite group of Sir Donald Bradman and Brian Lara as the third batsman to reach the triple-century milestone twice in the history of Test cricket.

Bradman hit 334 and 330 vs England in 1934 while Lara scored the world record of 375 against England in 199-’94 and then got the record back with 401 against the same opponent in England in 2003-04.

Sehwag also scored the fastest triple century recorded in terms of number of deliveries faced (300 in 278 balls) beating Mathew Hayden’s 300 in 362 balls.

The historic moment came when Sehwag played Makhaya Ntini to square leg for a single and then celebrated the landmark along with the 30,000 crowd.

It was Sehwag’s second triple-century; the first came against Pakistan in Multan in 2004.

More importantly, Sehwag put India in a strong position from where the hosts could dictate the course of the match on a pitch that continued to favour the batsmen though the odd delivery tended to keep low.

At the other end was a dour Rahul Dravid on 65 (181b, 8 x 4) and added 255 for the unfinished second wicket, the only occasion when India in 416 Test matches enjoyed two separate double-hundred partnerships.

Incidentally, Dravid needs another 15 runs to complete 10,000 in Tests and join five others — Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Sunil Gavaskar — who have achieved the milestone.

The lone success for South Africa today came in the second session when Wasim Jaffer, who scored a 166-ball 73 (6 x 4), while putting on 213 for the first wicket, was caught in slips by Jacques Kallis off a Paul Harris delivery.

It was not so much the number of runs that Sehwag scored, but the manner in which he did put in perspective his absolute dominance that also showcased his undoubted and abundant talent.

Sehwag countered the South African pacemen with bravado and nonchalance that left the bowlers staring down the pitch in disbelief. Left-arm spinner Harris looked rather innocuous and even his leg-stump line proved futile as Sehwag chose the inside-out route time and again to send the ball soaring into the stands.

Skipper Graeme Smith shuffled his fast bowlers — Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kallis — much like a card-sharp, but Sehwag had the answers to whatever cards that were dealt.

Two of the five sixes that Sehwag struck today, perhaps, best exemplified his power and timing. He picked Ntini off a length and flicked him over square-leg and later, put his front foot out to lift him over mid-off.

In effect, Sehwag literally toyed with the South African bowlers none of whom came anywhere close to dismissing, leave alone troubling the 30-year old gladiator from Delhi.

Thanks to Sehwag’s pyrotechnics, India scored 159 runs in the post-tea period, 133 between lunch and tea as against 96 in the first session even as the South African attack wilted in searing heat.

There were strong indications of things to come when Sehwag, who had scored 63 and 151 against Australia at Adelaide in his previous Test, gave a masterly exhibition in the morning to be on 110 as India went into lunch at 176 for no loss.

Sehwag was at his belligerent best, not afraid to go for his shots. In fact, he got to his century with two lofted shots off Jacques Kallis, over midwicket and long-on, reminiscent of the six that he struck to get to his 300 against Pakistan in the Multan Test exactly three years to date.

For Jaffer, the 31-year old from Mumbai, it was a welcome return to form following a sequence of eight innings without a half-century and a dismal run on the tour of Australia earlier this year.

Sehwag’s century came off 116 deliveries and contained 15 boundaries and a six, while Jaffer took 107 balls for his half-century and had five hits to the ropes and a six.

The opening partnership surpassed their previous best of 129 against the West Indies last year with Sehwag looking at his imperious best and Jaffer playing second fiddle even if with a few slices of luck.

With the pitch playing relatively easy, the Indian batsmen enjoyed themselves, playing through the line and also on the up. The bowlers had little margin for error and suffered mostly at the hands of Sehwag who cut and drove with abandon, besides stepping out for the lofted shots.

Jaffer, on the other hand, was not as convincing with a few edges eluding the close-in fielders, although when he got it right, he was elegance personified.

For South Africa, it was a dismal morning session as none of their bowlers so much as really troubled the batsmen. The pacers bowled rather poorly, repeatedly erring in line and length.

Of the lot, Morkel was the pick, maintaining a comparatively tight line to contain the Indian openers. Similarly, left-arm spinner Paul Harris put the brakes on the rapid scoring with a leg-stump line.

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