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Harbhajan gives India whiff of victory
Ashish Magotra |
December 01, 2004 12:34 IST
Last Updated: December 01, 2004 20:56 IST
Scorecard | Images from day 4
Harbhajan Singh gave India the whiff of victory in the second Test against South Africa, claiming four wickets in the second innings on day 4, at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Wednesday.
The ace off-spinner exploited a wearing track to reduce the visitors from 77 without loss to 172 for 5. He claimed the first four wickets for 58 runs, while Anil Kumble snared the fifth.
At stumps, Jacques Kallis was unbeaten on 52 along with Zander de Bruyn, on 9.
Earlier, India took a vital 106-run first innings lead after adding 52 runs to their overnight score of 359 for 6.Morning session
The South Africans took the new ball immediately in the morning and adopted the strategy of keeping the line short and fast.
India lost the wicket of Irfan Pathan (24 off 75 balls) early. Pathan drove at an angled delivery and ended up with a thick edge. Graeme Smith, at second slip, took a blinder to end the 58-run partnership. (366 for 7)
One would have expected the Indians to come out and look for quick runs but their approach was pathetic. The first 13 overs of the day yielded just 20 runs.
Ntini struck another blow a few overs later when he removed Anil Kumble, the new batsman, after the latter had scored 8 off 26 balls. (382 for 8)
The cricket played was dull and perhaps the only point of interest was whether Dinesh Karthik would reach his first half-century in Test cricket. The India wicket-keeper battled hard and showed some pluck but was dismissed by Shaun Pollock four short of the landmark.
The right-hander shuffled across the stumps to play at a delivery that was angled in and was struck bang in front of the stumps. Karthik (46) was beaten by the angle of the delivery more than anything else.
Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan got a few edges that sped to the boundary but even they were more subdued than usual. The duo added 24 runs before Harbhajan (14 off 32) mis-hit a reverse sweep to give Justin Ontong his first wicket in Tests.
India were bowled out for 411 and were ahead by 106 runs. Lunch was called immediately after the fall of India's final wicket. The pitch doesn't seem to be doing a lot but Kumble and Harbhajan are high quality spinners and the hosts will be hoping they can do the trick for India.
The Test has been reduced to a farce by India's staid approach. And there is no one to blame but the Indian team management. The hosts may still go on to win but it could have been so much better.
The think-tank, for some reason, has the notion that the amount of time spent at the wicket will determine the winner of the game. Otherwise, how does one explain batting 25.1 overs and scoring just 52 runs?
India's approach throughout this series makes one wonder if there is something seriously wrong behind the scenes in the Indian dressing room. For Sourav Ganguly and John Wright to support the team's deplorable approach is indeed embarrassing.
After the Kanpur Test, Harbhajan Singh had criticized the South Africans for playing too slowly. The Indians haven't done any better in this Test.
It is almost like sometime during the 2003 season when India fared very well in Australia and Pakistan. Then the team did a little introspection and decided, 'Hey! We can't be playing so well.' And then they got back to the drawing board and completely revised their approach to the game.
India still has that ability to scintillate but by the same token they can also plunge to the lowest depths possible.
It was certain that the day 4 pitch would undoubtedly play a huge part in the proceedings, but it would be only the spinners who would be able to use the rough outside the batsmen's off-stump.
For the first hour after the tea break, the South Africans played cricket in the right spirit. The visitors were fighting to save the Test, but they also knew the value of scoring runs. Every run added would get the Indians closer to batting again.
The Indian pacemen struggled on a wicket that offered them no assistance, and at the end of the 17th over South Africa reached 52. India needed the entire first session of the day to score the same number of runs.
Smith and Hall were positive in their intent and it looked like the pitch would not do much. But that was only until the spinners starting getting some purchase. Kumble was thrust into the attack in the 11th over but the ball was still relatively new and not really gripping the surface.
From the 16th over, Harbhajan joined him and the duo bowled in tandem. The ball now turned and the odd delivery bounced twice before reaching the batsman. The pitch was starting to break up completely, but Hall and Smith continued to deny India success with a good mixture of attack and defense.
Then Harbhajan made it happen. In the space of two overs, the off-spinner accounted for Hall (21), who was caught trying to sweep (77 for 1).
Jacques Rudolph (3), the new batsman, misread a straight delivery to be trapped leg-before the wicket while offering no stroke. (81 for 2)
Things were getting really difficult in the middle for South Africa, and the Indians, having looked in some trouble after the opening partnership had put on 77 runs, were smiling.
Jacques Kallis, the new batsman, was lucky to still be there in the middle. The umpire ignored a huge inside edge in the last over before tea. Harbhajan was denied his third wicket and South Africa went into tea at 91 for 2 after 28 overs.
The visitors still trail by 15 runs, with eight second innings wickets in hand. Smith, on 52, and Kallis, on 4, were at the crease.
Having watched the Indian spinners in action just before tea, one was sure it would be a battle for survival for the South Africans after the break.
Harbhajan was in his element, as he normally is after getting a few early wickets, and he flighted the ball and used different variations as the wicket gave him a generous amount of assistance.
A little before tea he was robbed of Kallis's wicket but then he struck a body blow to the South African cause when he dismissed Smith after he had scored 71.
The ball pitched just outside the leg stump and turned away from the left-hander, who pushed forward to defend. It clipped the edge and literally flew towards Laxman, at first slip, who displayed superb reflexes to take a brilliant one-handed catch over his head. (126 for 3)
The partnership for the third wicket was worth 45 runs and made sure that the Indians would have to bat again.
Hashim Amla was next to go. The right-hander walked in to join Kallis but having never played in such conditions before it was highly unlikely that the batsman would survive long.
That's exactly what happened.
Harbhajan tossed the ball up and Amla (2) tried to turn it away but missed. The ball clipped the pad and popped up behind the stumps on the off-side towards Laxman at second slip.
Kumble took his first wicket of the innings a few over later when he got Boeta Dippenaar. The leg-spinner continued to bowl round the wicket, pitching the ball in the rough. The ball in question pitched on the middle-stump and took the edge of Dippenaar's bat on to the keeper's pad and popped up for Sehwag, at gully, to take a comfortable catch.
With that wicket, Kumble went past Richard Hadlee in the all-time wicket-takers' list. He also became the highest wicket-taker in the world this year, having claimed 62 wickets in 10 Tests.
Zander De Bruyn walked in next and ensured that no more wickets fell with some particularly good defensive batting off the back foot.
Kallis, after seeing wickets fall at the other end, became more aggressive. He reached 50 with a four off Kumble to follow up his 121 in the first innings. The right-hander looked very comfortable at the wicket and showed that he is a class act.
The umpires offered light after 58 overs had been bowled and the batsmen readily accepted.
At the end of the day, South Africa were 172 for 5; 66 runs ahead with five second innings wicket in hand.
In the 30-over session, South Africa scored 81 runs and lost three wickets. India will need to be in a positive frame of mind to make sure of victory on day 5.