Friday, December 17, 2010

Solid South Africa assume complete dominance

India's away record may have improved dramatically over the past decade but, so far in Centurion, they have looked like the terrible travellers of the pre-Sourav Ganguly era. On a sunny second day at SuperSport Park, along with the clouds, the demons on the pitch had gone missing and South Africa were set for a massive lead after blunting India's attack in the first couple of sessions.
The openers, Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen, made half-centuries to take their side close to the lead, before two of their middle order run-machines, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, increased the advantage to 100 by tea.
India's vaunted batting order had been dismantled on the first day, and there was more punishment in store as Smith and Petersen went mostly untroubled during the course of a century partnership. Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma got the new ball to move, and though the batsmen swished and missed a few times, there were no genuine chances through most of the session.
Petersen was scratchy early on, and it was Smith who did the bulk of the scoring in a watchful start. After six overs, South Africa had moved to 9 for 0 and it was the introduction of 19-year-old rookie Jaidev Unadkat that increased the run-flow. His third delivery was a gentle half-volley that Smith drove fluently past mid-off for four. Bowling in the late-120s, his bouncers didn't trouble Smith, who pulled one of them powerfully for four.
With Petersen also finding his touch, and unleashing some lovely drives, the run-rate began to rise, and Dhoni turned to spin in the hope of a breakthrough. Harbhajan Singh didn't have the best of starts though, slapped for a couple of fours in his first over and dispatched over midwicket for six in the next. Smith used the cut effectively against Harbhajan, toying with the spinner to pick off three more boundaries. It was the cut that caused his downfall, though, three minutes before lunch, as a ball that bounced extra took the top edge to the keeper with the score on unlucky 111.
The second session began with Petersen stabbing a wide delivery past point for a boundary, and set the tone for another two hours of domination as India looked woefully short of firepower. With the aid of a bunch of lovely drives, he went on to his second 50-plus score in three innings against India.
Keeping him company was Amla, who with the confidence that comes from scoring a wagonload of runs, played an adventurous knock. He kept looking to pull the quicks from outside off, and paddled Habrhajan from outside off, in an innings that also had his trademark drives and late glides towards point.
In a rare spell where the South African batsmen were troubled, Harbhajan nearly had Amla caught at short leg after getting one delivery to turn in sharply from outside off. The response from Amla? A swipe over midwicket for six next ball. Harbhajan did break the stand, though, getting Petersen to inside-edge to short leg, the batsman walking when in sight of a century though it looked like a very fine edge.
That brought in Kallis, who was in an aggressive mood, being particularly harsh on the part-time offerings of Suresh Raina, smashing him over deep midwicket for a couple of sixes. With the frontline bowlers not making an impact, Sachin Tendulkar was called on to bowl his all-sorts, which didn't curb the runs either - 125 runs coming in 28 overs of the second session.
The batting battering continued the perfect start to day provided by Morne Morkel. He removed MS Dhoni on the third ball of the day - the Indian captain walking after being struck in front of middle stump. Morkel finished with career-best figures of 5 for 20, and India finished on their overnight score of 136, their third-lowest total in South Africa

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