That’s why they’re number one

2010-12-30 00:00

INDIA talked the talk, but they also backed it up with a brisk march to an 87-run victory in the dramatic second Test at Kingsmead against South Africa yesterday.

The visitors’ win not only breathed life into the series; it also fanned a furnace-like battle between the top two sides in the world.

India’s credentials as the world’s number one cricket side were questioned after they folded in Pretoria, but their display at Kingsmead was a sobering reminder why they are regarded as the best.

South Africa cannot even try to claim the world’s best tag after this series reaches its conclusion, even if they bounce back in the New Year’s Test. They needed to win the whole lot to topple India.

After this showing, the Proteas will happily settle for a series win whichever way it comes.

India, who have bounced back remarkably from the doldrums of the first Test at Centurion now have the momentum — and they even have the added bonus of Gautam Gambhir’s almost certain return for the final confrontation.

What will really worry the South Africans, though, is that the visitors thrived in conditions that were supposed to be tailor-made for their demise.

Jacques Kallis was ripped out by a proverbial snorter from Sree Sreesanth, which reared up and caused the Proteas kingpin to fend it off to gully.

It was like a sword plunged deep into the pit of the Proteas change-room. The immovable force beheaded by the smarmy assassin.

Sreesanth has been accused of saying all sorts to Graeme Smith during the match, but he did even more damage with the ball.

His trio of wickets were as big as they come: Smith, Kallis and Hashim Amla.That did a lot more damage than any mutterings he may have made in the middle.

Zaheer Khan bounced back from his bashing at the hands of Smith the day before, as he produced a hostile and sustained spell on the fourth morning with very good support from Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma.

South Africa now seem all at sea in Durban, as this is their third straight loss at Kingsmead.

Smith dismissed suggestions that his side struggle on bouncy tracks, citing their successes over the past few years.

“I don’t think it’s an issue, it is just that we haven’t been able to do well in Durban for a while now,” he said.

“I think we lost this match on day two, when we were bowled out for 131. That was just not good enough.”

“There were a couple of unlucky dismissals, but India also bowled very well at us.

“They were also slightly better than us with the bat, which made all the difference.”

Smith also tried to keep a sense of proportion over the loss.

“I think it’s important to not get too emotional about this match, and go back to our basics and look to bounce back in Cape Town.”

The loss was laced with controversy, as both AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher fell to contentious leg-before decisions.

De Villiers’s demise to Harbhajan Singh looked high, while Boucher’s dismissal to Khan looked outside the line.

Ashwell Prince hung around long enough to register the second highest individual score of the match, 39. That none of the Proteas went past 50 was a major reason behind their downfall.

Paul Harris was bowled by the rampant Khan soon after lunch, before Morne Morkel bashed a few lusty blows.

But the fat lady had been warming her voice since the night before, and she duly burst into song as Morkel’s attempted back-foot drive was snaffled by Dhoni off the impressive Ishant Sharma, before Lonwabo Tsotsobe was run out sharply by an alert Cheteshwar Pujara at short-leg to end the proceedings.

The Indians celebrated much like they had played — as a team.

Written off prematurely after the first Test, they showed precisely why they sit atop the Test tree.

SCOREBOARD

India first innings 205 (VVS Laxman 38, MS Dhoni 35; D. Steyn 6-50)

South Africa first innings 131 (H. Amla 33; Harbhajan 4-10)

India second innings 228 (VVS Laxman 96; M. Morkel 3-47, L. Tsotsobe 3-43)

South Africa second innings (overnight 111-3)

G. Smith c Dhoni b Sreesanth37

A. Petersen c Pujara b Harbhajan26

H. Amla c Dhoni b Sreesanth16

J. Kallis c Sehwag b Sreesanth17

A. de Villiers lbw b Harbhajan33

A. Prince not out39

M. Boucher lbw b Zaheer1

D. Steyn c Pujara b Zaheer10

P. Harris b Zaheer7

M. Morkel c Dhoni b Ishant20

L. Tsotsobe run out0

Extras (nb-8, lb-1)9

TOTAL (all out, 72.3 overs)215

Fall of wickets: 1-63 2-82 3-82 4-123 5-136 6-143 7-155 8-182 9-215 10-215

Bowling: Zaheer 17-3-57-3, Ishant 11.3-0-36-1 (6-nb), Sreesanth 14-2-45-3 (2-nb), Harbhajan 29-5-70-2, Tendulkar 1-0-6-0

Result: India won by 87 runs

Series: Three-match series level at 1-1

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