Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Prince resists India's push for victory

A defiant Ashwell Prince stood in the way of India's charge for their second Test win in South Africa. In front of a disappointingly thin crowd at Kingsmead, the venue where India suffered one of their worst-ever Test defeats in 1996, their bowlers rarely bowled a bad delivery on the fourth morning, to put their side in sight of victory. A Sreesanth snorter to Jacques Kallis started South Africa's slide, before two lbws - one a marginal decision and the other a howler - that are sure to refuel the UDRS debate, hurt them further. India are firmly in charge at lunch, but teams have fought back from seemingly hopeless situations before in this Test.
If the match has to-and-fro-ed over the week, so has Sreesanth's bowling form. The wayward, antic-loving Sreesanth was missing on the fourth morning, as he sent down an accurate spell of sustained hostility. The highlight was in the seventh over of the day - an utterly unplayable bouncer which reared up sharply and jagged in to Kallis, who had no way to avoid it, arched his back in an attempt to get out of the way, but could only glove it to gully. It was the snorter that was needed to remove the kingpin of South Africa's batting.
That wicket put India slightly ahead, and there was no doubt who were front-runners after AB de Villiers decided to not offer a shot to a Harbhajan Singh delivery from round the wicket. He was struck in front of middle and looked lbw and the umpire agreed, though Hawk-Eye suggested the ball would have bounced over the stumps.
Over a decade in international cricket, Mark Boucher has built his reputation as a scrapper, and with Prince also around, it wasn't yet lights out for South Africa. Boucher, though, made only one before he was given lbw to a delivery that was angling across him and going to comfortably miss off stump.
South Africa had lost three wickets, and there was still no boundary in the morning, a testament to the scarcity of bad deliveries. When the first four did come, from Dale Steyn, it was an edge to third man. Steyn had pinged Zaheer Khan on the helmet with a quick bouncer on Tuesday, and the Indian responded with a string of short balls to the South African spearhead. After three of those, Zaheer slipped in a fuller delivery, which Steyn duly nicked to slip.
At 155 for 7, with lunch still 45 minutes away, the game looked set for a quick finish. Prince and Paul Harris, however, resisted with some dour batting, in addition to a couple of confident boundaries from Prince. They batted out the 10 overs to the break, to leave South Africa 121 adrift of an improbable win.

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