Pitch doctor works for India?

The first Test between India and South Africa had its share of controversy even before the first ball was bowled. There was Graeme Smith (and coach Mickey Arthur) doing the mandatory lip service about how India would face the pace music and how he had plans for India’s batting with his pacers. Well, they worked to some extent. Then there was the delay on day 1 because of too much sweating due to an over-enthusiastic groundsman getting the pitch wetter than necessary. But then, the games began. And SA seemed to be on top!

S Sreesanth Until the SA bowling ran into a man making a comeback with much to prove. Sourav Ganguly was the only man to cross 50 in both first innings and remained unbeaten on 51 when the last Indian wicket fell for 249. Not the best score when you have won the toss and elected to bat, but given the pitch (and how it was doctored to suit pace), this looked competitive.

Little would the curator or either team or the fans have guessed that this score would be big enough to afford India a 165 run lead! Thanks partly to Allan Donald who put some sense into the Indian bowling advising them to stick to line and length! S Sreesanth who has always been hyperactive and shown great promise, made good this time and came up with figures of 5/40; his best ever. And as all commentators repeatedly said, it was the upright seam that made the difference.

India’s second innings tottered for a while until M/s Ganguly and Laxman steadied the ship. India already have a lead in excess of 311 but half the team is out and on this pitch which is easing up marginally, chasing 350 may still be possible. Having said that, the Indian bowling attack does have more variety than the SA team does and with Anil Kumble already having tasted blood, the odds are heavily in favour of India.

A special note about Andre Nel: I like the man for his energy but I find him extremely anal when it concerns his behaviour. He needs to grow up and quickly considering he is already 29! No matter how much you can outtalk the batsmen, it’s finally the wickets you can pick that will make the difference. And he doesn’t seem too smart either. All his short stuff was dealt with pretty easily by the Indian batters and the couple of wickets he did pick up were off good-length or just short of a good length deliveries. Line means nada to him and I am talking of the lines he would bowl with the ball not his mouth!

For once, India has a chance to go has gone 1-up after the first Test on an overseas tour and I would hazard the prediction that India would win. A caveat: India needs to ensure that SA are chasing more than 400 (ideally, more than 450). This means Laxman, Dhoni, Kumble and Zaheer (and now VRV Singh) need to ensure another 90-odd runs are scored among them. Not too tough one would think, but stranger things have happened in this Test. Remember, all 10 SA wickets have fallen for 84 in the first innings! (Told ya!)

Update: Well, my prediction came through (whew!). India did manage to set SA more than 400 (402, to be precise!) and are now 1-0 up in the series. Not a normal situation for India to be in. The interesting part here would be how they handle the pressure of being the favourites to win a series. For the South Africans will come back hard at them. The next Test is at Durban, not the most favourite of India’s venues, but they should hold on based on the performance in the first Test. The only missing link really now is the opening batsmen’s forms…

What was also really good to see was that Sreesanth delivered in the second innings too. This goes to prove that he is not flash in the pan and can become one of the strike bowlers if he can stay fit, focussed and add to his repertoire without losing what he already has: a natural flair for the game.

And, oh… the lips seem to have gone a little numb now:

“The wicket played quite slow on day one but it quickened up quite a lot on day two. But for us to get bowled out for what we did was obviously not good enough. Credit to them, they got the ball in the right areas and created chances consistently. They were a lot more precise than us the whole Test match. We did get the highest total of the game in the fourth innings but all credit to India. They have got their first win and congratulations to them.”

Yes, Graeme, the pitch was slowed down with extra water before the game and then quickened by drying on day 2. Way to go, Einstein.


  1. When the tour of India to South Africa began, I hoped for good performance but all that ends when we lost all matches of ODI series.
    Despite being the fact that we are so strong on paper, we perform miserably bad. All the top performing guns failed to deliver the best for india.

    When the test series begun, I thought we can’t match the south african team and will face the same humilation as we faced in the ODI series.

    As the first test starts our batting again let us down and I thought a 250 plus total willnot pose any problem to south africans and we will probably have to chase long target set by south africans. But hats off to the young guys who performed brilliantly in bowling department and send the african team back to stadium on the mere total of 84.

    This set the tone for the wininig start for India. South african failed to handle the pressure set by indian team . The bowling of sreesanth is really exceptional. Hats of to this guy. I really liked his dance when he hit the ball for six.

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