‘The way Test cricket should be’

2010-12-28 00:00

FAR from looking for excuses, Proteas batsman AB de Villiers was refreshingly honest in assessing the match situation at Kingsmead.

“Day three is usually the decisive day in a Test match, and this one will be a big day for both teams,” he said. After a day when a record 18 wickets tumbled in Durban, De Villiers was still singing the praises of a fine Test wicket.

“It has been suited to the bowlers for the first two days, but I think that is the way Test cricket should be,” he said. “The batsmen should have to work for their runs, and then the pitch will get easier as the match wears on.”

None of the batsmen were there long enough to find permanent employment in the middle yesterday, as the Indian bowlers, especially, bounced back.

“They are the number one side in the world, so we expected them to come back at us,” De Villiers pointed out.

The returning Zaheer Khan led the rearguard, with his swing and control a major thorn in the Proteas’ side. “He is a world-class performer, and he put us under a lot of pressure.

“As a team, the Indians hit their lengths better, and they bowled really well,” De Villiers added.

Spinner Harbhajan Singh also starred for the top-ranked Indians, helping himself to four wickets for just 10 runs as the Proteas folded dramatically.

“I don’t really know how 18 wickets fell in one day, but we did bowl very well,” a chuffed Harbhajan reflected.

“But there is still a lot of cricket left in this game, and we will need to bat well [today],” he cautioned. The Indians, already leading by 166 runs, are in position to put the Proteas under a lot of pressure, and Harbhajan was eager for the batsmen still at the crease to keep the foot on the pedal.

While the exploits of the classy VVS Laxman are well documented — particularly his abilities in the second innings — Harbhajan has been heartened by the man on the other end, Chetheshwar Pujara.

“He works very hard at his game, and I hope he converts it into a really big score in this game,” Harbhajan enthused.

The young right-hander has certainly shown an appetite for the scrap, seeing out a testing 76 minutes with Laxman to stop the deluge of wickets yesterday.

Laxman’s best of 281 came in an extraordinary match against the Aussies in 2001, and De Villiers said the Proteas are well aware of his ability.

“He is a key wicket, because he can take a game away from us. We need to bowl to our plans to him, and hope to get him early.”

With MS Dhoni and the fast-scoring Harbhajan still to come, the match is poised on a knife edge.

Harbhajan said that if they can reach 300 (and a lead of 374) they will have a very good chance of squaring the series.

“There is nothing wrong with the wicket, as Hashim Amla and Laxman showed when they got in, so we need to get beyond 300.”

The Proteas may have dominated the first six days of the series, but the Indians have struck back with refreshing vigour. Today will be a decisive day indeed, potentially for the series even.



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