India v South Africa at Mumbai
24-28 Feb 2000 (Anand Vasu)

Day1 | Day2

Day1: South Africa gain upper hand at the end of the first day

The Indian captain for the two Tests against South Africa, Sachin Tendulkar today began on a good note, winning the toss in the first Test match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Tendulkar going in to the match with a batsman extra decided to bat first as expected. India go into the Test match with just four bowlers. Those missing out for India are Mohammed Kaif, T Kumaran and Nikhil Chopra. Wasim Jaffer and Murali Kartik are the debutants for India.

For South Africa, Nantie Hayward will consider himself unlucky to be left out after his good showing in the recent match against the Indian Board President's XI. Boeta Dippenar and Daryll Cullinan will also have to content watching the match from the confines of the pavilion. Cullinan who sustained a groin strain at the beginning of the tour has not recovered in time for the first Test.

A bright sunny day at the Wankhede Stadium welcomes the two teams. It goes without saying that the pitch is a flat batting track. A bit of grass has been rolled into the pitch to bind it. However, the track is likely to break up and take turn as the game wears on.

Debutant Wasim Jaffer will take first strike to Allan Donald. His partner opening the innings is VVS Laxman.

Allan Donald getting good lift off the wicket once again made it clear that he can be a hand full on any wicket. Al though he did stray down the leg side initially, the batsmen were forced to play at the ball, offering strokes and not making contact on more than one occasion. Shaun Pollock however came close to picking up the first wicket when Wasim Jaffer closed the face of his bat too early on a full delivery. The ball flew off the outside edge between first and second slip. Lance Klusener diving across to his right got his hands to the ball but could not hold on to the catch.

The batsmen were being squared up time and time again by the bowlers. Donald who had bowled well within himself in the match against the Indian Board President's XI generated express pace. His bouncers virtually flew off the wicket, sending Jaffer scurrying for cover.

The first wicket fell in the fifth over, as a nervous Jaffer played around an in coming delivery from Donald. The ball clipped the inside edge before removing the bails. A disappointing debut for the Mumbai lad as he managed just four runs.

Pollock, who did not play the tour game did not have Donald's fiery pace but made up in accuracy and movement what e lacked in pace. The Indians were in all manner of discomfort and it took Laxman 20 deliveries before he could get off the mark by playing the ball thought the vacant third man area for four.

Rahul Dravid came in at one drop and showed no intent of doing anything other than defending the ball. In an attempt to see off the new ball, Dravid crept into his shell. Though he looked far more unsure, Laxman at least looked to score when the ball was up for the shot.

Donald's first spell in Test cricket in the series was a tight one. His six overs cost just nine runs and included the scalp of Wasim Jaffer.

The first commanding stroke of the day came off a wide Lance Klusener delivery in the 13th over. Dravid got quickly to the pitch of the ball and drove it square of the wicket to the point fence.

India had somehow stumbled to 37/1 at the first drinks break. VVS Laxman after playing and missing endlessly was on 15 and a steady Rahul Dravid had 12 runs to his name.

After making his way patchily but quickly to 15, Laxman could add just one run to his aggregate before he played a loose shot and gave his wicket away. Playing away from the body at a delivery wide outside off stump, Laxman could only manage a thick edge. His foot was not to the pitch of the ball and the edge flew to Eksteen in the slip cordon. The South Africans don't miss catches like those and Laxman's 81 minute essay of 16 had come to an end.

At 39/2 with the crowd roaring behind him, Sachin Tendulkar walked out to the middle. Lance Klusener kept the ball right up to the bat and that is a ploy that often proves to be an expensive one. Dravid took to Klusener's bowling and was comfortable enough to pick consecutive boundaries off the medium pacer.

Tendulkar started quietly, but signaled his arrival at the wicket with a crisply timed drive through the off side that raced to the extra cover fence. All Jacques Kallis could do was watch with hands on hips as the ball beat the fielder on the off side.

Allan Donald was summoned back into the attack in the twenty-third over and found that bowling to Tendulkar and Dravid was not quite the same as bowling to Laxman and Jaffer. Tendulkar was unfazed by the bouncers Donald was sending down and was keen to make use of any opportunities to keep the scoreboard ticking over. When Donald drifted onto the leg stump Tendulkar was quick to whip the ball away through mid wicket. After picking up two runs in this fashion, Tendulkar did one step better, timing the ball perfectly and picking up four off an identical shot.

The much talked about Tendulkar versus Donald battle began in earnest. Donald followed up every other bouncer with a couple of quick words. However, the fact that he let Tendulkar get so many runs through the on side eased the pressure considerably. Kallis on the other hand bowled a tight first spell and went in to lunch with figures of 6-4-6-1.

Shortly before lunch India got their first taste of spin in the form of Clive Eksteen. Relieved to face the spinner, the Indians milked Eksteen for five runs in his first over. At lunch, India were making slow but steady progress at 69/2. Dravid had twenty two runs to is name while Tendulkar looked comfortable on twenty one.

South Africa reverted to their ace fast bowlers straight up after lunch. Donald responded well to his captain's call by removing the rock solid Rahul Dravid soon after lunch. Dravid playing down the wrong line was undone by an incoming delivery from Donald. The ball beat the Karnataka batsman for pace and he was clean bowled through the gate. His patient twenty two took all of a hundred and eleven minutes.

As his replacement at the wicket the 'Prince of Calcutta' Sourav Ganguly walked out. He left the ball well alone more often than not and took twenty balls to just get off the mark. Having gotten off the mark by elegantly turning the ball around the corner, Ganguly proceeded to gift Pollock his wicket. Driving uppishly at a full delivery outside off stump, Ganguly ended up hitting the ball straight down Strydom's throat at mid off.

Donald's second spell rivaled his first. This time around he was a bit more expensive, but 6-3-11-1 are figures any captain will settle for.

Tendulkar continued to go strong against all the South African bowling. A viciously pulled six over mid wicket took Tendulkar past the half century mark. His fifty came off just 61 balls and included 7 boundaries and the one six - a high percentage of runs in boundaries.

Ajay Jadeja who was initially not even in the 14 man squad came in next and got off the mark off the very first delivery he played. Trying to ease the ball through the off side, Jadeja began with a streaky boundary through the third man region. Soon after, he should have been making the long walk to the pavilion, but a bit of sloppy wicketkeeping by Mark Boucher let him off the hook. The ball flew off the edge and Boucher was very late in reacting. He got a glove to it, but could not hold on to the ball which ran away past first slip. When drinks were taken after forty one overs, India were in a less than convincing position at 111/4.

At tea, it was very much the Tendulkar show that kept India going. A totally unconvincing Ajay Jadeja was at the wicket with the Indian captain. Tendulkar had moved on to 78 and looked good for a long stay at the crease. He was especially good against the spinners, toying with Clive Eksteen, who went for twenty-six runs off his six overs. Against Allan Donald, Tendulkar was not as comfortable and was almost dismissed attempting an expansive drive. A ball well outside off stump tempted Tendulkar into the drive. While umpire Venkat declared Tendulkar not out, Donald was visibly agitated and believed he had gotten his man. Even television replays did not conclusively suggest that the ball had come off the edge. Ajay Jadeja on twelve was barely keeping Tendulkar company. At tea on the first day of what looks like an interesting game, India were 142/4.

The last session of play was a genuinely interesting one at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Sachin Tendulkar, who was batting well, fell just three runs short of what would have been a well deserved hundred. Unable to resist the temptation to flash, Tendulkar was caught behind off the bowling of Kallis. Tendulkar's innings was the backbone of the Indian innings like countless times before.

Ajay Jadeja has made a career of promising much and delivering little in Test cricket. In another display that suggested that he may not be up to the scratch in the highest level of the game, Jadeja struggled for 12 off 59 balls before he fell to a gentle medium pacer from Cronje.

Nayan Mongia, who was spoken of as a possible candidate to open the innings made a duck as the probing line and length of Cronje got the better of him. Fending at the very first ball he faced, Mongia did not trouble the scorers. Boucher completed the easiest of catches behind the wicket to dismiss his Indian counterpart.

It took only one ball for Kallis to clean up Javagal Srinath. A full, straight ball was more than Srinath could handle and the stumps were a mess before his bat came down on the ball. On a hat trick, Kallis almost had his prize when Kumble swished airily at the first ball he faced. Luckily for him and India his foot was not close enough to the ball and he did not manage to edge the ball.

Just when it looked like things would be over in a hurry, Ajit Agarkar, coming off a positively shocking series with the bat in Australia lit up the stands with a sparkling innings. Debutant Murali Kartik showed no sign of nerves and partnered Agarkar well. Agarkar drove and flicked with gay abandon, notching up an unbeaten, almost run a ball 41. Kartik was finally undone by a Pollock straight ball that pegged his stumps back. By this time he had stuck around for 51 minutes, made 14 runs and most importantly shared a 52 run last wicket partnership with Agarkar.

All out for 225, India left South Africa with eight overs to play out. Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs did that with consummate ease as Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar bowled without purpose. The Indian speedsters bowled a majority of their deliveries wide of the stumps and the South Africans were hardly made to struggle. They will resume tomorrow morning at 27/0.

Day2: India restrict South Africa and yet squander advantage

Opening up on 27 for no loss on the second day, all the South Africans needed to do was play through to lunch without losing further wickets. Gibbs looked in superb touch and was the aggressor even as Kirsten rotated the strike well. Gibbs played the medium pacers well, standing tall on tip toes and working the ball effortlessly through the off side. Compensating for Gibbs mastery over the off side, Srinath bowled a straighter line and found that Gibbs played the ball with equal felicity on the leg side.

Ajit Agarkar generated good pace and used the bouncer well. The fact that neither Srinath nor Agarkar could get the ball to move either in the air or off the wicket made it very difficult for them to trouble the batsmen. The one time Srinath got the ball to straighten off the wicket, he almost caught Kirsten's outside edge. Agarkar realising very early that he could not get any assistance from the conditions bent his back extra and made it difficult for the South Africans to settle down to a rhythm against him.

When spin was introduced, the South Africans became circumspect. There was no way they could play the spinners with the ease with which they went after the medium pacers. Anil Kumble extracted good bounce from the very first ball he bowled and it was hardly surprising that Nayan Mongia behind the wicket immediately donned the helmet behind the stumps. The ball bounced awkwardly to the batsmen and they did not have a specific strategy to counter Kumble. Kirsten played the ball late and had a better chance of surviving. When he committed to the front foot, he really plonked his leg a long way down the wicket, making it very difficult for the umpire to give him out LBW. When he played back, Kirsten once again took a large stride, and this enabled his to let the ball bounce and turn before he played his shot.

Kartik gave the ball a fair bit of air and did not appear to be nervous in his first bowl in Test cricket. On the mark right away, Kartik was a good foil to Kumble as the Karnataka leggie attacked the South African batsmen. However, neither spinner could make a breakthrough.

As he has done so many times in the past, Sachin Tendulkar picked up the ball and came in to bowl at the end of the 31st over. There is always something in the air when Tendulkar comes on to bowl and today was no exception. Gibbs opened the face of his bat and guided Tendulkar's leg break straight to the waiting hands of Ganguly at slip. This was off Tendulkar's third ball, and just the second Tendulkar delivery that Gibbs had faced. Once again the Indian skipper had done what his frontline bowlers could not do for him. Gibbs 46 had come in good time and though at times he seemed a bit confused about how he should approach the spinners he looked the better of the two openers.

Jacques Kallis came in next and gave Kumble his first dismissal of the match. Chasing a wide deliver going down leg side, Kallis tried to glance the ball away down the leg side. The ball came back in a shade and caught the leading edge of Kallis' bat. The ball flew to VVS Laxman at silly mid off and he held a good reflex catch to get rid of Kallis for just 5.

Hansie Cronje, arguably South Africa's best player of spin breezed in and out. Undone by a Kumble turner, Cronje inside edged the very second ball he faced onto his pad from where the ball ricocheted to Laxman under the helmet. Cronje walked immediately and made the umpire's job easier.

Pieter Strydom, who played the spinners quite well in the game against the Board President's XI came in next and took South Africa through to lunch without any further casualities. At lunch, the power balance was shifting towards India, with the South Africans at 103/3.

Whatever the Indians ate for lunch on the second day certainly agreed with them. Resuming after lunch, Murali Kartik picked up the first wicket of his career. Piter Strydom was confident enough to attempt to come down the wicket. Attempting to clear mid off, Strydom hit the ball uppishly. Agarkar at mid off, threw his hands over his head and snapped up the catch. Strydom had made just 2.

Lance Klusener and Gary Kirsten then continued the defiance for South Africa. Kirsten got to his fifty by turning the ball behind square for a single and was given a roaring ovation by the Mumbai crowd. Unfortunately for him and South Africa, he was undone by Sachin Tendulkar soon after. Bowling off spinners to the left hander, Tendulkar tempted Kirsten into the sweep. The ball was pitched just outside leg stump and Kirsten played all over it. Turning in just enough, the ball clipped the bail on its way to the wicketkeeper. Unsure of what happened, Kirsten stood around and waited for the umpire's decision. Standing umpire David Shpepherd consulted the umpire Venkat at square leg and waved the dreaded finger at Kirsten. Television replays showed clearly that Kirsten was clean bowled.

Shaun Pollock has shown in the past that he can be a more than handy bat. However, playing spinners on dusty tracks is never easy. The second ball Pollock played ballooned off his boot to the on side. Wasim Jaffer ran back from silly mid on but could not make the catch. The loss however wasn't a great deal. Off the very next ball, Pollock attempted a vicious pull against the spin. The Tendulkar leg spinner jumped and turned and caught the top edge of Pollock's bat. Running across from mid on, Jadeja watched the ball carefully into his hands and completed a good catch.

Mark Boucher was the next man in and he too did not last long. Beaten in the flight and off the wicket, Boucher hung his bat limply in the air as a Kartik delivery turning away from him clipped the outside edge and went through to Nayan Mongia. The Indian stumper reacted quickly enough to glove the ball and South Africa were in serious trouble at 144/7.

Nicky Boje and the tail did not last long as Srinath finally found some rhythm and picked up the wickets of Eksteen and Boje and the South African innings came to a close right at tea time. The visitors were all out for 176, losing 10 wickets for a paltry 86 runs.

When India came out to bat in their second essay, things began well as Wasim Jaffer and VVS Laxman looked confident. However, that confidence seemed premature and the Indians did not do justice at the crease. Laxman was the first to go as he gloved a fast, rising delivery from Donald straight to Boucher. Laxman did not stick around long enough to trouble the scorers.

Just 8 runs later, Jaffer too made his way back to the pavilion. Leaving his bat hanging in the air, Jaffer allowed a perfectly pitched Pollock delivery to kiss the outside edge of his bat before it went through to Klusener at first slip. At 13/2 India were once again given a bad start by their openers.

Rahul Dravid came in and was bogged down from the start. As is often the case with Dravid, he simply could not find the gaps. Tendulkar on the other hand was in fine form once more striking the ball cleanly from the word go. He began with two strokes through the off side that left the fielders standing. Tendulkar did not even venture out of the crease as the ball raced across the turf to the boundary. Unfortunately, that was all Tendulkar could manage as he made the fatal error of padding up to a straight ball from Hansie Cronje. Cronje had bowled a superb line and length, giving nothing away. The ball struck Tendulkar plumb in front and umpire Venkat had no hesitation in lifting his finger and sending Tendulkar on his way.

Sourav Ganguly looked in as good touch as we have seen him in the recent past and carved the ball through the off side with consummate ease. However, the game began to look too easy for him and the South Africans plotted his downfall to perfection. Lulling him into an entirely false sense of complacency, Pollock got the Bengal southpaw caught in the slips. A perfectly pitched delivery drew Ganguly into the drive and only resulted in an outside edge, which Klusener snapped up. Ganguly's entertaining innings of 31 came off just 42 balls and was studded with four boundaries and one big six.

Ajay Jadeja, who looked a misfit in the Test side in the first innings did nothing to change that when he had a second knock. After playing without purpose for 12 balls, Jadeja guided a ball slipping down leg side into the waiting hands of Mark Boucher behind the wicket. He made 1 run. As Allan Donald celebrated Jadeja's dismissal, Anil Kumble walked out to the middle ahead of Nayan Mongia.

Kumble and Dravid played for stumps, not scoring a single run in the last six overs that were bowled. While it is important to preserve one's wicket, Dravid will find himself in the strange position of having no one to bat with if he continues at this rate. At 75/5, India better score some runs if they want to stay in this game.