It was an absolute shocker at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad. The opening day of the second test will go down as one of the worst in Indian Cricket’s history. The home side were shot out for an unbelievable 76 in an innings which lasted less than two hours! The innings lasted just the 20 overs which is the new record for the shortest completed innings in the sub-continent. India just managed to score one run more than what they had got in Delhi, 1987 against West Indies. Like any professional side, the South Africans made complete use of the game situation to end the first day’s play at a strong 223/4.
Anil Kumble took more than a couple of brave decisions this morning. First of all he decided to play the match although there was a niggle with his groin. He got Irfan Pathan to replace the injured Sachin Tendulkar while retaining an out of sorts RP Singh. South Africa remained unchanged from the first test as expected. A weakened batting line-up didn’t stop the Indian Captain from electing to bat first after winning the toss on a track that had a bit of grass and also the juice for the quick bowlers to lick. Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn decided to take revenge for all the caning they had taken on the placid Chennai track. Both these quicks hit the pitch hard, moved the ball at scorching speeds to have India in trouble straightaway. Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag were both back in the pavilion with single digit scores in the space of 7 deliveries! Already on the backfoot, India lost two more wickets in the form of the tentative VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly to leave the score at 30 for 4 in less than 8 overs! Laxman and Ganguly were gone in the space of three balls to Makhaya.
A dream delivery from Dale Steyn in the 14th over broke through the Great Wall of India – Rahul Dravid. Steyn bowled a magical outswinger which pitched around middle and swung away late to strike the offstump of a stunned Dravid! The South Africans after this made sure that they didn’t allow any fightback from the hosts whatsoever. Morne Morkel, the third fast bowler joined the party as well by getting a reckless Dhoni caught behind. Steyn then finished off the tail in a hurry to finish with breathtaking figures of 8-2-23-5. Ntini had to settle with 6-1-18-3 and the tall Morne Morkel had figures of 6-1-20-2. For India, the top scorer was Irfan Pathan, who remained unbeaten with a 17-ball 21. Dhoni with 14 (from 22 balls) was the only other Indian batsman to get into double figures! Rahul Dravid’s stay of 51 minutes and 26 balls was the longest in the innings that lasted 109 minutes!
South Africa were yet again given a superb start from its openers – Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie. By the time Sreesanth had got a skidding inswinger to have Smith plumb in front, South Africa had knocked off 78 on the board in just over 15 overs. Smith was looking deadly dangerous with 34 (from 42 balls with 6 fours). Neil McKenzie too couldn’t convert his good start into a big one after he fell just before tea after nicking a straighter one from Harbhajan. The right hander made 42 from 73 balls with 8 fours. Harbhajan Singh raised India’s hopes of coming back in the Test Match immediately after Tea with the wickets of Amla (caught bat pad) and Prince (lbw to a straighter one that forced him on the backfoot). But the Indian attack couldn’t sustain any real pressure thereafter with Kallis and AB de Villiers mixing caution with aggression. Both right handers used their feet to manufacture some calculated shots.
South Africa ended the opening day’s play at 223 for 4 in 64 overs with a lead of 147. Kallis is on 60 (from 124 balls with 5 fours and a six) and AB de Villiers on 59 (from 102 balls with 7 fours) in an unbroken stand of 106 for the fifth wicket. India could have had their fifth wicket when a Sreesanth’s big inswinging yorker had crashed into the toe of AB de Villiers towards the fag end of the day’s play. Umpire Tony Hill gave the benefit of doubt to the batsman thinking that there might have been bat first before getting hit on the toe. Harbhajan Singh has been the only bowler threatening to take wickets for India, he has good looking figures of 16-3-49-3. With plenty of time left in this Test Match, the only things that can save India are the weather, which looks fine and a big second innings total.