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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > News > Report

Fast track awaits Indians at Durban

Faisal Shariff in Durban | February 25, 2003 20:43 IST

Ashish Nehra sat dejected at the rear of the team coach as it rolled out of Kingsmead ground in Durban this afternoon, after the Indian nets.

On a wicket with guaranteed bounce and pace, the left-arm fast bowler, who clocked 147 kmph against Zimbabwe and, to everyone's surprise, moved into the number four slot among the fast men on view at this World Cup, might have to watch the proceedings from the confines of the dressing room.

Team physio Andrew Leipus has maintained a dignified silence over the injury, while coach John Wright and skipper Sourav Ganguly seem more optimistic than realistic when talking about Nehra's chances of playing the crucial tie against England.

In any case, a final decision will be taken -- by Leipus -- tomorrow morning, just hours before the game, after a fitness test.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of theories floating around about the nature of the wicket at Durban, and the intriguing possibilities thatthe notorious windcan produce, depending on the direction from which it blows.

So what do you do? How do you know when it will blow from where, and frame a strategy accordingly?

The commonsense approach is articulated by former wicket-keeper and current national selector Kiran More. At breakfast this morning he told me, "The wind will blow anyways, you still have to play."

Evan Flint, assistant groundsman at Kingsmead, says that when the wind blows from the north-east the ball does not do too much, which is why batsmen enjoy themselves. The reason for this is that the wind blows from the dry land area, and does not carry sufficient moisture to help the ball swing around significantly. The problem with the winds blowing in from the south is that it carries the moisture from the sea (keep in mind that Durban is a coastal venue) -- and this makes the ball swing a lot and also juices the wicket up.

The prediction for tomorrow is for this wind -- the north-easterly -- to grace the region, which makes for ideal batting conditions for the team that wins the toss.

Another factor is humidity -- Durban is the steamiest of South African venues, and that can prove sapping.

Chief groundsman Wilson Ngobese (pronounced Go-besi) believes that a total of 270 batting first will prove to be a winner, and anything above 250 will make for an interesting chase. He said, further, that conditions would be less overcast than we saw today, and that batting would be easier in the afternoon -- in other words, during the first session of what is a day-night match.

Another point to keep in mind is the bounce Durban is notorious for. The Old Fort End is at the upper end of the sloping Kingsmead ground, and therefore produces more bounce than the other end, the Umgeni End.

The ground is small, the outfield quick -- so twos and threes are difficult to come by.

"Boundary hitters and quick runners between the wicket will thrive here," said Ngobese.

The wicket, which is currently covered with 4mm of grass, will be shaved to 2mm tomorrow morning and then rolled for 20 minutes with the heavy roller to kill the grass on the wicket. The wicket has been starved of water since last Wednesday, and though many cracks were evident on the pitch during the day the groundsman said they close up in the night. This reduces the assistance they could provide to the spinners.

Ngobese believes that in Tests, even a single spinner is a luxury on this ground but in the abridged version of the game it would be interesting to see the spinners who can extract good bounce from the wicket worry the batsmen.

The groundsman looks rather surprised at all the queries. "I don't know why all Indian journalists have been asking me why there is so much grass on the wicket where India plays England. Take a look at this wicket (the one for the SA- SL encounter)," Ngobese said, who presumably hasn't heard of India's batting travails on green-tops.

I take him up on it, and check out the other wicket. This one, adjacent to the one on which India will take on England tomorrow, is noticeably green and is being watered daily, ahead of the upcoming game between South Africa and Sri Lanka.

Ngobese says that if he were captain and won the toss, he would chose to bat first and let the other side struggle under lights.

So what price numbers? What do you do with the history of the ground, the little nuggets that are thrown up when you trawl through scoreboards and such?

The last ten ODIs played at Kingsmead, Durban, have resulted in a tie of sorts: the team batting first has won five games, the team batting second ditto.

Over these games, the average score for the side batting first is 247; it is 217 for the side batting second. Obviously, the side batting second has its best chance in bowling out the opposition for a low score this ground is not conducive to very big chases.

England have played at this ground once, and lost.

India has played four times and lost thrice, with one match abandoned due to rain.

Neither India, nor England, have played any third countries at this venue their opponents have on all occasions been the home side.

England's only game was on January 17, 1996. Batting first, England made 184 all out in 49.5 overs. Alec Stewart, the only surviving member of that team, scored 31/44 as opener, while Graham Thorpe was top scorer with 63/74. Allan Donald took four and Pollock two for the Proteas, who then hit up the runs in 48.2 overs for the loss of five wickets.

India's first game was on December 17, 1992. South Africa made 216/8 batting first, with Kapil Dev taking 3/23 and Anil Kumble 1/33. India were all out for 177 in reply, in the 48th over, with Azharuddin top-scoring with 41/73, while Tendulkar batting at number five made 23/39.

On February 12, 1997, India playing for the second time at this venue made 191/9 in 50 overs, the only time in four tries it managed to last the distance. Ganguly had 18/43; Tendulkar made 32/27, Dravid 33/70, Azhar 60/81; Donald claimed 2/23, and in reply, the Proteas managed 42/1 in 14.3 overs before rain stopped play.

A day later (February 13), in the replayed game, SA made 278/8, powered by fifties from Gary Kirsten and Darryl Cullinan and a 49 by Kallis. Srinath took 1/50, Kumble 2/45 and Tendulkar 1/19 in three overs.

In reply, India were all out 234 in the 40th over the 5+ run rate made possible by Tendulkar's 45/33; Dravid's 84/94 and Azhar's 45/44.

Readers might want to re-live that game, for a reason -- this was the final of the SBI ODI series that year, and it was the occasion of a classic showdown between Alan Donald, the Bullet from Bloemfontein then in his pomp, and Rahul Dravid, the supposedly sedate batsman who stunned the Proteas quick with some incredible hitting that left Donald frothing at the mouth. (See match report)

The last time India played here was on October 26, 2001. Batting first, the side made 183 in 48.2 overs with Dravid top-scoring (77/102). South Africa made 187/4 in 42.2 overs, with Kumble producing a tight display and ending with 10-1-24-0. Harbhajan Singh took out both Kirsten and Gibbs, the openers (2/48) while Tendulkar took the only two other wickets to fall (5-1-27-2).

More figures: in the 10 day-night encounters that have been played on this ground, the team wining the toss has surprisingly opted to field 6 times out of ten, a surprising aspect given the theories doing the rounds that the team wining the toss should opt to bat first.

India has the honor of being at the receiving end of two records at Durban. The highest total of 278 has been scored against them while they have been bowled out here for the lowest total ever in a day-night encounters (177).

210 is the average score in D/N games for sides batting first, while sides struggle to score 200 while chasing.

The past, they say, is precedent. But they also say the past proves nothing -- whatever you do or don't do, you have to do on the day. And for both England and India, that day is tomorrow, when they face off in what should be a cracker of a contest with a place in the Super Six on the line.

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Number of User Comments: 15

Sub: important match to make it

just play ur natural game and do let u down to any sort of pressures....

Posted by kiran

Sub: Just play your natural game

Stastistics has very little to prove so far as this series is concerned.Do not let it weigh too heavily on your mind.Just play your natural ...

Posted by Kaushik Mohanty

Sub: Its very importent

Its really good chance for India to enter super six. Since we are left with two games to enter super six we have to win ...

Posted by Guna

Sub: Its very importent

Its really good chance for India to enter super six. Since we are left with two games to enter super six we have to win ...

Posted by Guna

Sub: batting first at durban

with reference to the pitch report at durban by rediff.com, it shows an excellent view, so indians at this point can easily bat first as ...

Posted by praveenkumar


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