Thursday, January 6, 2011

Gambhir leads India through first session

India did not try to win this deciding Test on its final morning - the target of 340 was always out of reach - but they made a significant stride towards saving the match, and the series, by losing only Virender Sehwag in the first session. South Africa's attack wasn't as hostile as it was in India's first innings but Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn still bowled aggressively with the new ball. Gautam Gambhir, batting with a battered left hand, was at the forefront of the resistance.
South Africa broke through only at the stroke of the first hour - when Sehwag edged Morkel behind - but that was their only success in 28 overs. They have another 62 to try and take the nine wickets needed to win their first series at home since Bangladesh visited in November 2008. India will be happy, having seen off one out of three sessions without serious damage, but the game could change quickly.
The pitch assisted Steyn and Morkel early on, with several deliveries rising sharply from a good length. Steyn got the ball to seam and swing away, through he wasn't as terrific as he was on the third day. Morkel posed the greater threat, targeting the bodies of both openers with balls that jagged into them from short of a length. One screamer from round the wicket rose so steeply that even Gambhir's best efforts to avoid it failed. The ball thudded painfully into his left arm, just below the elbow. It was the same injured arm that kept him off the field and out of the ODI series. A while later another screamer threatened Gambhir, who managed to swerve skillfully, and Boucher had to leap with one arm outstretched over his head to collect it. Morkel had three slips, a gully, a leg gully and a short leg waiting for the catch.
It made sense for Gambhir to try and face Steyn, while Sehwag countered Morkel. Steyn's swing into the left-hander's pads made it easier for Gambhir to face. Sehwag, however, struggled against Morkel, getting hustled by deliveries that homed in at his body and beaten by others that straightened. There were several plays and misses, but nothing was edged and there were no lbw shouts.
South Africa's first chance came when Lonwabo Tsotsobe replaced Steyn in the 11th over and Sehwag slashed him. The ball flew towards JP Duminy, standing deeper at point, and burst through his hands as he mis-timed his jump. The let-off cost South Africa nothing for in the next over Sehwag hung his bat out and edged Morkel to Boucher. Umpire Ian Gould asked the third umpire to check if Morkel had overstepped. He hadn't, by the smallest of margins. Sehwag's dismal tour was over, 144 runs in six innings was all he got.
The pressure eased when Tsotsobe and Paul Harris were operating and Gambhir and Dravid simply focused on survival. They left plenty and defended solidly. Dravid was careful to play Harris with bat in front of pad, ensuring nothing would pop up to the close catchers. There wasn't much happening off the pitch for Tsotsobe, and when he got too straight, Gambhir clipped him through leg.
India reached 50 when Gambhir jumped down the pitch and drove Harris through cover. They had scored at less than two an over. Steyn returned for a burst before lunch but couldn't make a breakthrough. He will return after the break and strive agai

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