Sunday, Dec 05, 2004
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On the fourth morning, before the start of the play, I had a good look at the wicket. I came back to the dressing room a bit apprehensive about forcing a result in the match. After the first three days of play, it seemed that the wicket may be a bit too slow to throw up a result. However, I knew that our spinners, with all their experience, will pull out something special. They did not disappoint.
The turning point of the match came when Anil Kumble bowled a remarkable over on the fourth afternoon to a well-set Graeme Smith. He got it to spin, jump, keep low, leaving Smith totally confused. It sowed doubts in the minds of not only Smith, but also other batsmen in the South African dressing room. It also told us that if our spinners hit the right areas, they would make life difficult for the Proteas. The rest, as they say, is history.
I bowled Harbhajan and Kumble in long spells. I think they bowled about 50-52 overs in tandem to cause most of the damage. In fact, there was a time when they looked like picking a wicket every over. If our appeal against Jacques Kallis had been upheld, the match would have been over earlier than it actually did on the final day.
Harbhajan was immaculate and picked up most of the wickets, but it was Kumble who kept things tight at the other end. These two Indian spinners complement each other. I am very pleased for Kumble's milestone. I am sure he will add many more to his tally of 434.
The South Africans need not lose heart. They came here with plenty of youngsters who didn't do too badly. They must be encouraged and persisted with. They are in the process of rebuilding their side and I am sure couple of years down the line, they will be a top-notch side.
They sorely lacked a spinner in this game. In my opinion, they made a mistake by dropping Peterson, who bowled a consistent line in Kanpur. He would have been able to get a lot of purchase from the bowlers' footmarks. Also, he seemed to be more accurate than Ontong, who played in his place in Kolkata.
The Proteas have a very important series coming up at home versus England. They will be quite a handful in home conditions, but they need to be more positive in their outlook than what we saw in the two-Test series.
Highest ever ranking
For us, it was a much-needed win. It's great to see India at No. 3 in the ICC Test ratings. It's the highest we have ever climbed on that table. I think it is a just reward for our Test performances over the past two years. Losing to Austarlia 1-2 at home is perhaps the only blemish in the book. Had the fifth day in Chennai not rained off and a bit more commonsense prevailed in general, the result of the series could well have been different. However, what's gone is gone, and now it's on to Bangladesh and then we wait for Pakistan to come over.
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