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Troubled times for South Africa

S. Dinakar

Victory has done a world of good to Indian team's morale



STRIKING IT RICH: S. Sreesanth got rid of the South Africa captain Graeme Smith, who has been in woeful form, in both the innings of the first Test. — Photo: AP

Durban: The Indians arrived in this charming port city to a sunny reception on an otherwise cloudy Wednesday afternoon. The cricketers appeared to be in high spirits; a victory can do wonderful things to mind and body.

Rahul Dravid's men soon hit the nearby beach for a running session on the sands. They realise that the South Africans have a lot of catching up to do. The host, clearly, has to step up its pace.

Talking of the sea and the breeze, it is intriguing why the South Africans have not picked their only genuine swing bowler, Charl Langeveldt, for the crucial second Test, where the Indians could well close out the series.

Weather factor

Swing could sting at Kingsmead, more so, if the weather continues to be muggy. But then, some of the South African selections have been intriguing.

The home pacemen bowled the wrong length at the Wanderers. They failed to pitch the ball up, and as a result could not move the ball in the air. They realised the consequences the hard way.

Langeveldt would have been just right, simply because, as a swing bowler, he has to bowl a fuller length. And he is a worthy paceman, who has troubled the mighty Australian top-order in the past.

Actually, apart from their bowling which, with the exception of Shaun Pollock, lacked precision, the South Africans have to set right their batting in order as well.

Top order blues

After a brief period of improvement in the Centurion ODI, captain Graeme Smith has slipped back to his old shuffling ways. In this mode, he is a sitting target against quality swing. S. Sreesanth nailed him in both the innings at the Wanderers.

Take away that determined effort in the Port Elizabeth one-dayer, and Smith's opening partner Herschelle Gibbs hasn't done too well either.

Gibbs could be living on borrowed time if he does not make his place count in Durban. He is under fire for lack of application. He, fatally, went for glory in the first Test, when, as a senior batsman, he should have applied himself to building an innings.

That he is still a potential match-winner could be the reason why the selectors are persisting with him. But there is immense scope for improvement in his shot selection. Even gifted cricketers, when they are searching for form, need to grind and construct.

Hashim Amla would probably be better off down the order than at No. 3. He looked suspect in the corridor, was repeatedly opened up by Sreesanth's outswing.

Jacques Rudolph might add weight to the top-order. The left-hander could also bring more quality to this South African line-up. Against an Indian pace attack that means business, the South African top three face a test of temperament and technique.

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