India make the most of docile pitch on day one

2013-12-27 00:00

A FLAT, docile pitch made the first day of the second Test against India at Kingsmead yesterday one of attrition for the Protea bowlers as they bashed away with little success, claiming only one wicket before bad light stopped play at 3.35 pm. India, after winning the toss, had hustled along to 181-1.

Boxing Day dawned bright and clear, with people flocking to the venue that last saw a Boxing Day Test in 2011 when Sri Lanka were the visitors. A much-anticipated balanced struggle between bat and ball was expected, as Morné Morkel had been passed fit and Robin Peterson had come into the side for Imran Tahir.

Indian captain MS Dhoni won the toss and had no hesitation in batting, but the biggest cheer of a listless day was for Jacques Kallis as he led the Proteas team onto the field in this his 166th and final Test. He had announced his retirement from Test cricket on Christmas Day and he walked onto Kingsmead alone as his team-mates stood at the bottom of the steps that lead onto the turf, applauding. A guard of honour was formed by the mini-cricket children.

He was given a worthy and emotional greeting and cheer as he lifted his floppy sunhat and waved to all corners of the ground. Even those who are not cricket followers appreciated his contribution over 18 years, knowing he will always be a colossus in world cricket, ranked as one of the greats and in many people’s view, South Africa’s greatest cricketer.

A banner that read “King Kallis is Alles [everything]” summed up feelings around the cricket world as he has been everything — batting, bowling and fielding — for the Proteas since his debut in 1995.

That was about the only cheer through a long day of toil and sweat for Graeme Smith’s men in the field. An opening stand of 41 between Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay was broken by Morkel when he had Dhawan snaffled at third slip by Alviro Petersen for an entertaining 29 from 49 balls with four boundaries.

That was the Proteas’ only success in the morning session as India went to lunch on 76-1 and then tea at 163-1. Vijay had progressed to 76*, his fourth Test half century and first against South Africa, and Wanderers centurion Cheteshwar Pujara had dug himself in on 55*.

Smith shuffled his bowlers in an attempt to initiate a breakthrough but on a pitch that saw the two top-ranked ICC Test bowlers — Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander — struggle, it was clear there was a long, hard battle ahead.

Peterson looked ineffective, getting nothing from the pitch as the batsmen picked him off with ease. Steyn looked fierce at times and Morkel had a few moments when he questioned the umpire, but it was a long day for the fielding side.

The floodlights were all blazing by 3 pm and it was a question of when the players would go off for bad light. It wasn’t long after, umpires Steve Davis and Rod Tucker taking the players from the field with Vijay undefeated on 91 and Pujara 58 with India in a comfortable posi­tion. Morkel was the only successful bowler with 1-26 in 12 overs, although there was some encouraging reverse swing for him and Steyn before play was halted. The second wicket partnership is currently 140 with only 61 overs bowled.

“We were surprised by the pace of the wicket, which was a bit slow. We were pumped up for the first hour but now have to deal with the conditions,” said Morkel. Play starts at 9.30 am today.


India first innings

S Dhawan c Petersen b Morke29

M Vijay not out91

C Pujara not out58

Extras: (lb1, w1, nb1)3

TOTAL: (for one wicket. 61 overs)181

Fall of wickets: 1-41 (Dhawan, 13.1ov)

Bowling: Steyn 16-6-49-0, Philander 14-4-39-0 (1nb, 1w), Morkel 12-3-26-1, Kallis 7-1-23-0, Peterson 12-2-43-0.

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