Vineet Sharma/ Zeecric.com
Durban: The duo of VVS Laxman and Cheteshwar Pujara held fort as the Indian scorecard read a troubling 92/4 at stumps on Day 2 of the second Test at Durban.
It was a day ruled by the bowlers as 18 wickets fell in about 79 overs. Wickets tumbled every now and then, giving a refreshing change from the run fests that are more symbolic of today’s flat pitch cricket.
Harbhajan Singh, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Zaheer Khan made the most of the conditions, sending tremors down the opposition’s spines. The tearing fast nature of the pitch combined with the mid-air movement made it tough for the batsmen to score runs at will and had to toil hard for every run added to the scoreboard.
As a day’s summary, the Indian tail was wrapped up quickly (205) by the Proteas, and when it was their turn to bat, they faltered just the way the Indians did. Once Zaheer produced the initial break-throughs, there was a spring in the stride in the Indian camp. Bhajji bowled beautifully after lunch and 131 was all that the hosts managed.
Sehwag and Vijay gave the Indians a bright start, but they didn`t hang around for long. Dravid went after a wide delivery and it led to his downfall. Vijay and Tendulkar were done in by fabulous deliveries. Tsotsobe bowled his heart out and the round the wicket angle did work for him. Pujara looked confident and Laxman - who is tailor made for this kind of a situation - showed signs of resistance.
With the batsmen in the spotlight against lethal bowling, the third day would surely depend on the Indian batsmen’s ability to milk the runs, aiming for a 250+ run lead against the home team to level the series after the loss at Centurion.
The first Indian wicket was down with the fall of Virender Sehwag to rookie Tsotsobe at a score of 32 runs. The juncture saw the visitors leading the Proteas by 116 runs in the second Test.
The South African bowlers didn’t disappoint in the presence of favourable conditions as the second Indian wicket was down early in the form of Murali Vijay (9), who was claimed by speedster Morne Morkel. This was quickly followed by Lonwabo Tsotsobe getting his second victim of the innings with an ordinary looking shot from Rahul Dravid (2).
Sachin Tendulkar’s golden wicket saw the middle-order struggling with the task of putting up a challenging total to chase for the home team. The master was the fourth man to fall, claimed by Dale Steyn at a score of 6 runs.
Earlier, a superb comeback by the Indian bowlers saw the home team getting wrapped-up at a paltry 131 runs with Harbhajan claiming the last wicket of the day to come out on top of the bowlers’ chart with four scalps to his name.
The Kingsmead pitch had stood true to its pacey promise as the Indian fast bowlers claimed four wickets in the first session, making the South African scoreboard read 74/4 at lunch.
The South African dressing room was visibly jittery even before this as the Indian bowlers came up with a magical post-lunch spell, taking four wickets in quick time. The last of the four came in the form of Paul Harris who went for a duck to Harbhajan Singh, the man in action post-lunch with three in his kitty in no time at all.
The morning remained quite eventful for both the teams. First, the South African pacers, Dale Styen and Morne Morkel, restricted the Indians to a first innings total of 205, and later, Indian pacers, Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth, helped India take some control of the game.
Resuming from their overnight score of 183/6, India lost their remaining four wickets early.
After having already claimed four wickets on the first day, Steyn jumped back into action on Monday as well, as he dismissed Harbhajan Singh for 21 runs. Steyn got Bhajji caught by AB de Villiers at third slip as he went on to claim his fifth wicket of the match.
Soon after Harbhajan’s departure, Morkel was quick enough to dismiss Zaheer for a duck as he got the Indian tailender caught behind the wickets by Mark Boucher.
Steyn later went on to claim his six-wicket haul in the match as got rid of Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to put an end to India’s first innings. Steyn got Dhoni caught by finds Alviro Petersen at sweeper cover for 35 runs as the Indian wrapped up their innings at 205 runs.
Keeping in tune with the bowling times, Zaheer Khan was the first to strike from the Indian camp as dismissed both the South African openers, Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen, early in their innings.
He first dismissed the Proteas skipper Graeme Smith for 9 runs, by getting him caught by wicketkeeper Dhoni.
Dale Steyn’s wicket with Rahul Dravid completing a magical catch at 1st slip gave Harbhajan his second victim of the session. Harbhajan had come good just in the nick of time as he claimed the scalp of dangerous middle order batsman Hashim Amla (33) before he could set his eye-in and create problems in the crucial Test.
With the ball spitting fire at Durban, the first session of play on Tuesday could very well be the decider of the rest of the course of the match as both India and South Africa would like to use every opportunity to carve out a win in this battle of supremacy.