"A great day of Test cricket"

2011-01-05 00:00

THE sun and the stars came out simultaneously at Newlands yesterday, on yet another enthralling day of Test cricket between South Africa and India.

The Proteas ended the third day on 52 for two, 50 runs ahead of an Indian outfit that is sniffing blood.

“I think we have a slight edge after those two wickets,” Harbhajan Singh said after his late double burst gave the tourists some momentum.

“It was a great day of Test cricket,” Harbhajan declared.

And great it certainly was.

“Dale Steyn took five wickets and bowled unbelievably, and Sachin Tendulkar’s hundred was brilliant,” Harbhajan summarised.

Steyn’s swing bowling, especially his spell after lunch, was simply mind-blowing.

In fact, it almost makes more sense to suggest he was delivering boomerangs and bananas than mere cricket balls.

His seven overs after the lunch interval went for three runs and contained four maidens. Oh, and two of the boomerangs accounted for a startled Cheteshwar Pujara and MS Dhoni.

But that’s only the half of it.

Steyn produced unplayable ‘jaffa’ after unplayable ‘jaffa’, and the Indians had little answer to it, save for one little magician at the other end.

“It was a good contest with Sachin out there, and I got the ball to really shape nicely and was lucky enough to pick up some wickets,” the world’s top-ranked bowler said.

It certainly was quite a collision with Tendulkar, but Steyn ran riot on the other end, with final figures of five for 75.

He even had Harbhajan in knots, with another beautiful cutter zipping past the Indian all-rounder, before nipping the off-stump.

The Proteas were sure that he had nicked it, and both Steyn and skipper Graeme Smith were apopleptic.

But it was a fantastic decision by umpire Ian Gould, as replays showed that Steyn had shaved the off-stump, but the bail hadn’t been dislodged. He was so good, even the timber didn’t know what to do with itself.

“It was nice to get some wickets after going through the first session wicketless,” Steyn said, revealing the importance of his incisive breaks.

Tendulkar started the day with Gautam Gambhir, who lived a charmed life until he feathered Paul Harris through to Mark Boucher for 93 before lunch.

Harris was again involved in the fourth wicket, as VVS Laxman was run out at the non-striker’s end after a searing Tendulkar drive.

It was a vital double break just before the second new ball, after the Proteas had gone through much of the first sesion with no luck.

Steyn and Lonwabo Tsotsobe beat the bat repeatedly, as Gambhir and Tendulkar took their stand to a very threatening 176.

Steyn’s ball to dismiss Pujara was a thing of some beauty, drifting towards leg, then ripping like a leg-spinner to cannon into Pujara’s pads.

Dhoni wafted at another big-bender, as Steyn looked to wrap up the innings in a hurry.

As all that was going on, Tendulkar top-edged Morne Morkel over the slips for six to go to a brilliant, 51st Test ton.

Tendulkar found a strong ally in the feisty Harbhajan, who clubbed a sometimes ungainly 40, including two massive sixes, to bring the Indians closer to the SA total.

Harbhajan was finally ousted by Steyn, as a steepling bouncer cramped him and he was caught at short-leg.

Tendulkar, who had taken it upon himself to see off Steyn’s sublime spell, went on to a magnificent 146 before Morkel clipped the top of his off-stump.

Zaheer Khan and pantomime villian S Sreesanth then hung around just long enough to eke out a two-run lead.

It was that tight.

Harbhajan’s late double blow ensured India went to the hut feeling slightly better. Smith and Alviro Petersen had added 50 with little alarm, before Smith played back fatally to the spinner.

He was pinned right in front, before night-watchman Harris had a mind freeze, shouldering arms to an orthodox off-spinner, giving umpire Simon Taufel little choice.

The uneven bounce that both Harris and Harbhajan extracted would have sent a mild shiver down the throats of the batsmen on each side, with the Proteas having to mount a strong fightback today.

The Indians know this may well be their best ever chance to win in these parts.

“The wickets of Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla are key for us,” Harbhajan said. “If we can get those two out early on, then we can really put them under pressure.”

SCOREBOARD

South Africa first innings 362 (Hashim Amla 59, Jacques Kallis 161; Shanthakumaran Sreesanth 5-114)

India first innings (overnight 142-2)

G. Gambhir c Boucher b Harris93

V. Sehwag c Smith b Steyn13

R. Dravid run out5

S. Tendulkar b Morkel146

V. Laxman run out15

C. Pujara lbw b Steyn2

M. Dhoni c Prince b Steyn0

Harbhajan Singh c sub b Steyn40

Zaheer Khan c Prince b Morkel23

Ishant Sharma c Boucher b Steyn1

S. Sreesanth not out4

Extras (lb-20 w-1 nb-1)22

TOTAL (all out, 117.1 overs)364

Fow: 1-19 2-28 3-204 4-235 5-237 6-247 7-323 8-341 9-350 10-364

Bowling: Steyn 31-11-75-5, Morkel 29.1-7-106-2 (1-nb, 1-w), Tsotsobe 26-5-82-0, Harris 29-8-72-1, Petersen 2-0-9-0

South Africa second innings

G. Smith lbw b Harbhajan29

A. Petersen not out22

P. Harris lbw b Harbhajan0

H. Amla not out0

Extras (nb-1)1

TOTAL (two wickets, 16 overs)52

Fall of wickets: 1-50 2-52.

Bowling (to date): Zaheer 5-0-25-0, Sreesanth 5-1-20-0,

Ishant 3-0-3-0, Harbhajan 3-0-4-2.

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