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The Electronic Telegraph 1st Test: India v South Africa, Match Report
DJ Rutnagur - 26-28 Dec 1996

Day 1 Report: Hudson digs in to thwart India

Thanks to the sustained hostility of Venkatesh Prasad, whose menace seems to grow with each Test match he plays, India restricted South Africa to a moderate score but for various reasons they failed to reap the full benefit of the conditions at Kingsmead which prompted Sachin Tendulkar to ask South Africa to bat.

South Africa were indebted to Andrew Hudson, who stayed entrenched for the best part of five hours, for saving them from being more severely outplayed. Hudson was fortunate, however, not to be swept away in the collapse that followed lunch, when three wickets tumbled in the space of 29 runs. At 39, he survived a difficult slip chance off Javagal Srinath and three runs later was caught off a no-ball from Prasad.

It was a heavy cover of cloud that influenced Tendulkar's initial move rather than the look of the pitch and its reputation for being at its bounciest on the opening day. But India could strike only one blow before the skies cleared and at 70 for one, South Africa must have lunched with a good appetite.

With the innings just four overs old, Prasad produced a beauty, one that moved in late, to bowl Gary Kirsten through the gate.

India's prospects of making further inroads were spoiled first by Srinath incurring a minor injury which limited his lively opening spell to only six overs and caused him to spend a good part of the morning receiving treatment.

The third seamer, David Johnson, was wanting for accuracy and then Tendulkar, who came on to fill the breach with little swingers bowled at a military medium, strained his side in the midst of his third over and also left the field to recover, limiting the options of the acting captain, Anil Kumble. While the pressure was off, Hudson and the debutant, Adam Bacher, steadied the innings.

Srinath returned to the attack after lunch - though at reduced pace and with his first ball snared Bacher, half forward, leg before, breaking what proved to be the biggest partnership of the innings.

In the next over Prasad induced an edge from Daryll Cullinan. Both Srinath and Prasad peppered Hansie Cronje, suspect against the lifting ball, with a few short ones. He negotiated them but looked decidedly tentative, twice edging Srinath before snicking a good-length ball from Prasad.

If the Indians suffered from poor luck, they profited from some indifferent batting. It was with a poor stroke, one that he need not have played at all, that Herschelle Gibbs was caught off Johnson, reducing South Africa to 113 for five. But Brian McMillan dug in and helped Hudson put on 49 before Ganguly drew Hudson into playing at a widish out-swinger to provide wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia with the fourth of his five catches. Defiance from Shaun Pollock and Dave Richardson took South Africa to the borderline of respectability.

India earlier vetoed a proposal that could have allowed the match to become the world's first floodlit Test. ICC chief executive David Richards had agreed to a proposal by the United Cricket Board of South Africa that floodlights be allowed in the event of bad light at the Durban ground which is notorious for such conditions.

Day 2: Donald's pace puts Indians on back foot

Allan Donald, with a haul of five wickets, and his fellow pace bowlers brutally exposed the flawed techniques of India's batsmen and their distaste for pitches with a spring in them.

The pace attack demolished India for 100 in a little over three hours on the second day of the first Test which gave South Africa a lead of 135 on first innings. This was swelled to match-winning proportions by a second-wicket partnership of 111 between Andrew Hudson and Adam Bacher.

There can be no denying Donald credit for bowling at great speed but, with the exception of Sachin Tendulkar, who was toppled by a scorcher, India's main batsmen were found to be either inept or suicidal.

It was no surprise that India's openers failed to lay any foundations. Shaun Pollock's first ball of the day sufficed to remove the tall, left-handed Woorkeri Raman, whose shuffling across the crease left him so off balance that his bat was nowhere in line with the ball.

Vikram Rathore survived for 40 minutes only because Donald and Lance Klusener, who came on first change, took a while to find their aim. But as soon as Donald's radar was focused, he found his edge, Rathore addressing the ball at some distance from his body.

Saurav Ganguly settled and was assured enough to play the shot of the match, a flowing cover drive off Donald, but then hooked rather wantonly at Pollock, to be caught at long leg. His success notwithstanding, Pollock - whom Hansie Cronje used in short spells was replaced for the next over by Donald, who got South Africa the wicket they most wanted, that of Tendulkar.

Donald set him up by offering him two successive off-side half-volleys which were both driven majestically for fours. Then came a ball pitched on a perfect length just outside off stump which beat him for pace as it cut back to find the gap between a bat that was still coming down and pad.

India were reeling at 52 for four and all prospects of a significant recovery were removed when Mohammad Azharuddin, the maker of two centuries in the home series against South Africa recently ended, got himself out in a manner most irresponsible by falling into a very obvious trap.

He pulled Brian McMillan down the throat of a fielder who had just been dropped back into the deep in response to a hit for six in the same direction. The five wickets that remained standing at lunch were seized for only 30 runs and India were dismissed for their lowest total since being bowled out for 75 by the West Indies, at Delhi, in 1987.

The South Africans' own batting in the second innings was erratic. Before they began to lose ground, Andrew Hudson and Adam Bacher, batting with great panache for a half-century in his maiden Test, put them at a substantial advantage before both fell to Anil Kumble, who was wicketless in the first innings.

Day 3:Donald's pace flattens India

By bowling India out twice in less than the length of a full day's play - 72.3 overs -South Africa completed one of the most crushing wins, of 328 runs, in recent times shortly after tea on the third day, at Kingsmead. Required to make 395 to win, India had started to bat 10 minutes before lunch.

Rahul Dravid's 27 not out was the only two-digit score in a total of 66, nine fewer than the previous lowest against South Africa - by Australia, on the same ground, in 1949-50. It was also India's smallest score since they made 42 against England at Lord's in 1974.

India's batsmen were so overwhelmed by Allan Donald and Co that it is hard to see them denying South Africa a whitewash in this series.

In terms of bounce at least, the pitches at Newlands, where the second Test starts on Thursday, and the Wanderers will be just as mettlesome, though they may not be as grassy as Phil Russell's Kingsmead strip, which provided lateral movement to accompany bounce.

Even if India have the spirit to fight back, which is debatable, their batsmen do not have the technique to cope with the conditions against pace bowlers of a very high order.

The two batsmen most flawed in this respect are their openers, Vikram Rathore and Woorkeri Raman. The one batsman capable of rising to the challenge, Sachin Tendulkar, is not only out of form, but also out of luck.

After having his off stump sent flying in the first innings by one of the best deliveries Donald believes he has ever bowled, he fell in the second to a brilliant gully catch by Gary Kirsten. It came from a sliced drive that Tendulkar had struck with all his might. For velocity and trajectory, the ball seemed well out of Kirsten's reach, but he took off like a rocket and seized it one-handed while airborne.

In 10 innings since becoming captain, Tendulkar has passed 50 only once, been dismissed for 10 or less five times and is averaging 20. He is too strong a character to feel the burden of captaincy, but it will not be long before he is undermined by the limited resources at his disposal.

South Africa's own batting was strained by the pitch and high-quality bowling by Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad. In the first 40 minutes on Saturday, they lost five wickets in eight overs for 21 runs. But the collapse did not matter for they already had enough runs thanks to Andrew Hudson.

The impact that Donald had on the match will almost certainly last right through the series. Even in the 10 minutes that India batted before lunch on Saturday, he took two wickets -with successive balls and officials were already busy arranging a limited-overs match for today between the tourists and Natal.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk