South Africa posted a solid 291 for 2 on the opening day’s play at the new VCA Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur. The tourists rattled by the early loss of openers – Prince and Smith bounced back in style through a massive unbroken stand of 285 between Kallis and Amla. Both the right handers have struck centuries to set the platform for a tall first innings score. The Indian bowling looked flat once the partnership got going.
It was certainly a dream start for the hosts with Zaheer Khan reducing South Africa to 6 for 2 in the 7th over. Ishant Sharma too bowled well to make run scoring not so easy. India got its first breakthrough in the 5th over when Zaheer Khan bowled a perfect rising delivery angled into the rib cage of Ashwell Prince. The left hander got out just like how he fended a nasty lifter from James Anderson last month in Cape Town. Today Prince (0 from 10 balls) got into the same position of not being able to sway away from the line and was caught behind by MS Dhoni. But replays showed that Prince was an unlucky man as the ball had flown straight off the arm guard and there was no glove in that!
Zaheer struck gold again for India after two overs by rattling the stumps of the South African Skipper Graeme Smith. The left hander was already a bunny of Zaheer Khan having been dismissed by the same bowler on numerous occasions in various formats of the game. Smith (6 from 26 balls) today played inside the line to one that nipped back and the left hander was done in by the length, he was neither forward nor back to get cleaned up by Zaheer.
It was serious repair work for the Proteas after losing the openers. The best men suited for the job – the patient and technically sound Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis saw the morning session through to take SA safely at 90 for 2 in 29 overs. Dhoni used his two spinners early but couldn’t get them to complement the efforts of Zaheer. After lunch, the two South African batsmen kept their concentration intact and every now and then were helped by the loose deliveries. Kallis in particular kept the momentum due to the long hops dished out by Amit Mishra. Though the leggie would go past the bat with plenty of turn, the luck was always with the two batsmen.
The afternoon session was a drought period for India as Amla-Kallis steered their side to 193 for 2 in 62 overs. The pair professionally dealt the reverse swing ball as well. Kallis in that second session had registered his 34th Test century which had the big pulls against Mishra and the slog sweeps off Harbhajan Singh. The Amla-Kallis show continued and never stopped in the final session. Amla helped himself to his 8th test hundred and Kallis for the 10th time went past the 150-mark.
There was nothing going right for India as the pitch flattened out totally and the two batsmen having loads of patience. At the close of play, Kallis has moved onto 159 from 290 balls with 13 fours and 2 sixes and is determined to bring up his maiden double century. Amla has worked his way to 115 from 225 balls with 11 fours. The bearded batsman was dropped at silly mid on by Badrinath off Ishant Sharma which was a low diving catch to the right and he also was fortunate to get away with a thick edge between the keeper and slip off Zaheer.
There is not much of hope for India to bowl out SA quickly tomorrow as the pitch hasn’t supported the bowlers much. It would all boil down on how well the Indian batsmen can match the knocks of Amla and Kallis to try and secure the game first. For now, the match is in South Africa’s control.