South Africa reach 100/2 at tea, lead India by 24 runs

April 3rd, 2008 - 4:28 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh
(Tea Report, Lead)
By Avishek Roy
Ahmedabad, April 3 (IANS) South African batsmen buried doubts of any demons in the pitch as they reached 100 for two at tea and took a lead of 24 runs, in reply to India’s first innings score of 76 on the first day of the second Test here Thursday. Greame Smith (34) and Niel Mckenzie (42) scored at a brisk pace to deny Indian bowlers any early breakthrough as they put on 78 runs for the opening wicket at the Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera.

Smith’s wicket was the first to fall, when he was trapped leg before by Sreesanth in the 16th over. But TV replays showed the ball pitched inches outside the leg stump.

In the last over before tea, Mckenize nicked one to first slip Rahul Dravid off Harbhajan Singh to bring some cheer to the Indian camp. Hashim Amla was the not out batsman on 15.

South African openers scored at a brisk pace and brought about their 50 in 9.4 overs. Both Smith and Mckenzie played their shots right from the start of the innings and the new ball bowlers Sreesanth and Rudra Pratap Singh looked pale in comparison to their South African counterparts.

The openers cut and drove all the bad deliveries that came their way and did not give the bowlers time to settle down. Irfan Pathan, who came in for injured Sachin Tendulkar, also failed to make any impact.

Smith’s 34 came off 42 balls and included six boundaries while McKenzie’s 73-ball innings included eight boundaries.

It was quite different from the morning session when a furious spell of fast bowling by the South Africans saw the Indians’ first innings end in a catastrophic 76 runs in just 20 overs.

Dale Steyn (5/23), Makhya Nitni (3/18) and Morne Morkel (2-20) unleashed a fury that cracked open the famed Indian batting line up and wrapped them up in just 109 minutes even before lunch could be taken.

The much talked about Motera wicket, which had a tinge of grass, turned out to be a perfect strip for the visitors, who exploited the early moisture and bounce to rip apart the Indian batting as skipper Anil Kumble’s decision to bat first backfired miserably.

The ball seamed around but it was the lack of application from the Indian batsmen that did them in.

Even before the Indian top-order could blink, they were back in the pavilion within 45 minutes and the tail was trying to survive the torrid morning. Only Irfan Pathan (21 not out) and Mehendra Singh Dhoni (14) could get into double figure.

The slide started with Wasim Jaffer nicking a Ntini delivery to slip, straight to skipper Smith and he pouched it safely in the 4th over. Steyn got rid of Sehwag (6) in the very next over.

V.V.S Laxman and Sourav Ganguly’s stumps were knocked over by Ntini in a space of three deliveries. India’s were four for 30 in 7.3 overs.

Dravid (3) and Dhoni tried to stem the rot but it was not to be. The duo added 23 runs before an unplayable delivery of Steyn ended Dravid’s 26-minute vigil.

Morkel, in his very first over, snared Dhoni caught behind by Mark Boucher to leave India at a pathetic 6/55. Morkel struck again in the same over castling Anil Kumble (0). Steyn removed Harbhajan and Sreesanth and Rudra Pratap to complete his first five-wicket haul against India.

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