A record 158-run stand between Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid was just not enough from preventing the Proteas to win the 1st ODI of the Future Cup. It did give a fighting chance for the Indians but they lost out because of a responsible innings from Jacques Kallis with his teammates rallying around him. South Africa chasing 243 won the game by four wickets with 3 balls to spare making the contest an interesting one.
India hit by a viral fever bout was lucky to find a XI which included players from the original squad only. So Arjun Yadav and Rakesh Patel who were called to join the team were asked to sit out. This was because Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Piyush Chawla had recovered well. The weather for this first match was much better with the sun coming out. Kallis won the toss and put India in on a new wicket. The second ball of the match saw a simple catch put down by Kallis at second slip off Ntini’s bowling giving an early life to Sourav Ganguly. But the left hander couldn’t take advantage of that by nicking one behind in a drive in Andre Nel’s first over. Ganguly made 13 with his wicket falling in the 8th over. Gautam Gambhir, another batsman in form, went for a flamboyant drive only to be caught by Kallis at second slip for a seven-ball duck. This time there was no mistake from Kallis and Nel took this wicket as well to put India in trouble at 36 for 2 in the 12th over.
The situation was very tough for both Tendulkar and Dravid with the runs not coming easy and with the ball deviating in both directions because of some dampness in the track. Tendulkar infact had taken 17 balls to find his first runs of the day. But the experience between these two batsmen is extremely awesome with more than 20,000 runs and 700 ODIs, so they worked it out patiently to take India to a safety zone from which they couldn’t get bowled out. During the middle overs, life was tough with newcomer Vernon Philander bowling on a tight leash and hardly giving any bad ball, his economy rate at one stage was just around 2.00! Once he got tired, the two Indian batsmen changed the gears and the shots came out to create the momentum. What South Africa lacked was a bowler who could sustain the pressure that was created by Philander. There were lot of deliveries on the pads which let off Tendulkar and Dravid.
The 3rd wicket partnership between Tendulkar and Dravid was a record one, the highest for that wicket against SA. This was broken in the 44th over with Andre Nel cleaning up Dravid with a yorker. Dravid’s contribution was 74 from 93 with 6 fours, his 79th fifty. He was followed back in the pavilion, a couple of overs later when Sachin Tendulkar ran himself out in an attempt to get to his hundred with a risky second run. He fell for 99 which turned out to be 78th fifty but not the 42nd hundred. It was a fantastic innings from Tendulkar because it would have been worst for India had he not played this sheet anchor’s role of getting 99 from 143 with 12 fours. India lost the momentum in the final overs with the South Africans getting the reverse swing going on and bowling lot of yorkers. Yuvraj was threatening for a while before he found Kallis at mid on who had taken his 100th catch. India then struggled to get to 242 for 8 at close. There were helped by the 48th over bowled by Langeveldt which was taken for 18 runs by a smart Dinesh Karthik who also struck the first six of the innings with a pick up shot. Karthik made 19 from 10. All the six pacers used by the South Africans bowled well except for Langeveldt whose figures were spoilt with that 48th over.
India’s problem was that it had only two genuine pacers in its line up compared to the Proteas. There was no good back up for the left armers Zaheer and RP Singh. While both these bowlers managed to keep it tight, the first change Sourav Ganguly was taken for plenty by the openers AB de Villiers and Morne van Wyk. The breakthrough for India came in only the 13th over when De Villiers chased an away going delivery from RP Singh to be caught by a diving Dinesh Karthik. By then more than 50 runs were knocked out of the target with De Villiers dismissed for 24. The next break came for India in the 20th over when Morne van Wyk was caught off a leading edge off Piyush Chawla. Morne van Wyk had got 44 from 55 with 6 fours putting on 43 for the 2nd wicket with Kallis.
Young leggie Piyush Chawla and offie Ramesh Powar brought India back into the game with a wicket each to have SA at 124 for 4 in about 25 overs. Firstly Piyush clean bowled the dangerous Herschelle Gibbs with a magic delivery that skidded through and then Powar got JP Duminy sweeping one straight into Tendulkar at mid wicket. There still was Boucher followed up by Hall and then Philander, so lot of batting still left for the Proteas. All these three players supported their skipper and the victory was easily achieved in the final over. India did think it was in the game when Zaheer had got a lucky lbw decision to a delivery that was pitching outside the line of the legstump of Boucher (23). And also when Hall was caught at covers, deceived in the air by Piyush Chawla. Hall’s wicket had made the equation as 55 to get from 62 with 5 wickets in hand. This was when the captaincy of Rahul Dravid came under a test. He grossly failed by not turning to the wicket taking abilities of Sachin Tendulkar but instead went for containing the batsmen by using Yuvraj Singh. Towards the end, Kallis stayed unbeaten with 91 which came in 116 balls with 6 fours and Philander got 17. Nevertheless, it was a good show from Piyush Chawla taking 3 for 47 in his 10 and from Powar taking 1 for 39 in his 10. The Man of the Match was obviously going to be Kallis who not only got 91 not out but also took two wickets and two catches.