Super Steyn gets first punch

2010-12-27 00:00

THE now obligatory Boxing Day gloomy weather lifted just enough for the Proteas to snare six Indian wickets on a truncated first day of the second Test at Kingsmead yesterday.

Only 56 overs were possible, and Dale Steyn was the only South African who consistently hit the right areas, as he ended the day with fine figures of 4/36 in 14 excellent overs, with the visitors on 183 for 6.

Steyn, the leader of South Africa’s pace pack, once again illustrated just why he now sits atop the ICC bowling tree.

“I knew we just had to be patient out there, and the wicket was helping the bowlers,” he reflected.

Patience was certainly a key word yesterday, as play started over an hour after the scheduled start, and the conditions were certainly not conducive to the flashy fare seen at Kingsmead in the last two Test matches here.

MS Dhoni’s abysmal tossing form continued — he has won just one coin flip in his last 13 — and Graeme Smith happily invited the visitors to bat first.

Dhoni’s face was a picture, as the ghosts of Centurion must have briefly wafted through his mind, with conditions eerily similar to the scene of India’s first innings meltdown in the first Test.

It was more like May in Manchester than December in Durban, and Steyn stuck to his task like the seasoned pro that he now is.

“I kept on asking Graeme [Smith] for one more over, because you kind of sensed that something was about to happen,” Steyn explained.

He bowled some startling deliveries when play eventually started, with one sensational leg-cutter too good even for the considerable talent that is Virender Sehwag.

Sehwag opened with Murali Vijay, after Gautum Gambhir had pulled out with a hand injury, in one of three changes to the Indian starting line-up.

Zaheer Khan predictably returned in place of Jaidev Unadkat, while Suresh Raina’s lean run of form saw Cheteshwara Pujara replace him in the top six.

South Africa kept the same side, with Lonwabo Tsotsobe enjoying a much better time of it with the ball, claiming the prize scalp of Sachin Tendulkar straight after lunch, before getting Pujara to sky a pull to keeper Mark Boucher.

But that wasn’t the highlight of his day, as he pulled off an outrageous one-handed catch to help Steyn get rid of a startled VVS Laxman.

With chameleon-like stealth, Tsotsobe stuck out a right mitt to halt a well-hit pull inches from the ground, and Laxman (38) departed just when he was looking ominous.

That was the tale of India’s tape yesterday, as most of their illustrious top five made starts, and then gave it away.

“It was a real pity, because we all got in,” Laxman lamented after the day had ended early due to bad light.

“180 for four would have perhaps put more pressure on the South Africans, and it would have been nice for one of us to bat through and get a good 70.”

It wasn’t to be though, as Steyn struck twice before lunch, as a flat-footed Sehwag slashed one straight to Jacques Kallis at third slip, before Vijay was undone by another fine off-cutter.

Had the bowling at the other end been a little more precise, the Indians may have been in deeper trouble, but Morné Morkel was guilty of bowling a touch short, while Tsotsobe started off with the generosity befitting the holiday season.

74 for two at lunch meant that the Indians were probably the happier side, but that changed straight after the break, as Tsotsobe got Tendulkar nabbed by Jacques Kallis at third slip after the break.

Dravid fought for 25 in two hours, until he was undone by another, fine cutter by Steyn.

Laxman unfurled some fine strokes, including an effortless pull for six off Steyn, before Tsotsobe’s outrageous first catch in Test cricket sent him packing.

The gathering gloom didn’t allow for too much else, save for a few rather unsurprising fisticuffs in the crowd of 12 000.

After all, it was the day of boxing, and the Proteas snuck in the first punch on the field.

SCOREBOARD

India first innings

V. Sehwag c Kallis b Steyn25

M. Vijay c Boucher b Steyn19

R. Dravid c Boucher b Steyn25

S. Tendulkar c Kallis b Tsotsobe13

V. Laxman c Tsotsobe b Steyn38

C. Pujara c Boucher b Tsotsobe19

M. Dhoni not out20

Harbhajan Singh not out15

Extras (b-1, lb-2, w-4, nb-2)9

TOTAL (six wickets, 56 overs)183

Fall of wickets: 1-43 2-48 3-79 4-117 5-130 6-156.

To bat: Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, S. Sreesanth.

Bowling (to date): Steyn 14-3-36-4, Morkel 15-2-60-0 (2nb), Tsotsobe 11-3-40-2 (1w), Kallis 8-2-18-0 (1w), Harris 8-1-26-0.

South Africa - G. Smith, A. Petersen, H. Amla, J. Kallis, A. de Villiers, A. Prince, M. Boucher, D. Steyn, M. Morkel, P. Harris, L. Tsotsobe.

— Reuters.

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