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The Indians now have everything to play for

Shaun Pollock

How often in cricket history has controversy served to increase the tenacity of a team?

Whilst the off-field drama unfolded on Tuesday morning, only the unpredictable weather added a dimension of uncertainty to the crucial last day of the second Test match. We knew we’d be facing an Indian side with added resolve and we weren't surprised.

Deep Dasgupta showed surprising maturity, playing the role of chief anchor perfectly to prevent South Africa’s ascendancy in the series and guide India to a draw. The Indians now have everything to play for in the final Test match and it would be a shame to see the team return.

Mike Deness had been clear and firm on the issue of excessive appealing during the pre-series match referee’s meeting and I wasn’t too surprised to hear that sentences had been handed out. Cricket needs discipline (You could plainly see the positive effect the sentences had on the controlled appealing of the South Africans on the last day!) But, I suppose the real issue is one of managing this discipline so that it is recognised as fair and credible and for this we would need a publicized set of guidelines with defined parameters.

Surely, by now we should be able to hypothesise about almost any misdemeanor on the field and outlay the punishment to fit the crime. As far as possible, the idea of perceived subjectiveness should be diminished. Undoubtedly, the focus has been taken off the superb performance of Herschelle Gibbs. Everyone’s heart dropped in the SA change-room when Hersch lost his wicket just four short of his double century. He really did deserve the milestone and had he reached it, he’d certainly have earned a meal on me! At one stage he’d scored a remarkably high percentage of the total runs, reflecting how well he’d played.

Having lost the toss I was very happy with the team’s performance reaching 392 in the first innings. The wicket was slow at first due to its softness but had quickened up on day two. The bowlers had left divots in the grass which led to uneven bounce later on in the game.

We managed to make early inroads into the Indian line up but unfortunately weren’t able to make India follow-on. This turned out to be a crucial turning point in the game. Kumble and Laxman combined well to send India past the follow-on target. After an early scare in the second innings, we managed to combine and get some partnerships going and then the weather played its part.

I thought India batted well in the second innings. Srinath showed his true worth once again and although some feel he is “getting on” a bit, he is still producing the goods and leading the Indian attack.

The declaration is always a critical decision under uncertain weather conditions. Late in the fourth day I had to consider the impact that the wet outfield could have on the new ball. The last thing I wanted was a soggy, soft ball with no zip, but we had to declare to give ourselves enough opportunity to bowl India out.

Not much happened on the last day and the game fizzled out into a tame draw.

We’re looking forward to the contest at Centurion as a series win is important for us ahead of the series in Australia.

- G E Features

Earlier columns:
- We won't rest on our laurels
- I would have preferred to celebrate with a win
- Our ploy proved successful


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