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Bowlers give India famous win

S. Ram Mahesh

Home side dismissed for 215; series level at 1-1


DURBAN: India concluded another famous win overseas — only its second in South Africa — in glorious sunshine on Wednesday afternoon when it dismissed the home side for 215 in its second innings here at Kingsmead.

The victory, by 87 runs and with more than a day to spare, was a fitting riposte by the world's best Test team after the beat-down it suffered in the first match in Centurion and after another lost toss that allowed South Africa the best of the conditions.

With the win, India levelled the series 1-1. The third Test will be played in Cape Town from Sunday, and if M.S. Dhoni's side can call upon the intensity it began Wednesday with, a historic series win in South Africa will be within reach.

India wanted to shift Jacques Kallis early on Wednesday. The firmness of his technique, especially in defensive play, and the intensity of his concentration when asked to bat time, makes Kallis a formidable blockade. South Africa's stroke-players feel secure in his presence, confident they can play around him with unhesitant bats.

The way South Africa started, it was clear A.B. de Villiers was charged with the duty of hustling the runs; Kallis would play Kallis. Fortunately for India, Sreesanth bowled an excellent first spell.

Close to best

Unlike a large part of the first innings, where he strove without success for control, Sreesanth was close to his best on Wednesday morning. He made Kallis play, getting just a touch of reverse-swing into the right-hander at a reasonable, but not rapid, speed (135 to 138 kmph).

What Sreesanth has always had, however, is the ability to bring into being, from seemingly nowhere, an unplayable ball. Even in the first innings, when his bowling was rarely better than mediocre, he managed a leg-cutter that got A.B. de Villiers.

The one that dismissed Kallis was every bit as difficult to evade: it climbed at a steep incline off a length that wasn't all that short; Kallis arched his back as he leapt, but the ball hounded the batsman, moving into him as it rose to hit glove and lob to gully.

The drama heightened when umpire Steve Davis asked the Indians to put their celebrations on hold while he confirmed with the third-umpire that Sreesanth hadn't over-stepped.

Kallis walked off when confirmation came, looking deeply anguished, but it didn't dismay de Villiers from playing insouciantly. Harbhajan Singh, who, like Sreesanth, began with a maiden, switched to bowling from around the wicket. De Villiers, with quick, decisive feet, and pliant, adjusting hands, countered the off-spinner.

Harbhajan won that little battle, an off-break from around the wicket making haste off the wicket to strike pad before bat. The trajectory and the turn were enough to both defeat de Villiers' stroke and satisfy all but one of the necessary conditions for an ‘lbw' judgment.

Height was the only issue — the ball-tracking technology estimated that the stumps would have been hurdled, comfortably.

If that was a marginal decision, understandable because it looked out in real time, the one that followed was poor. Zaheer Khan's delivery, from left-arm over, didn't come back enough to threaten the stumps, but Mark Boucher was still given his marching orders. An important wicket it was too, for Boucher is a dangerous stroke-player under pressure.

Zaheer worked Dale Steyn over, doing to Steyn what the South African fast-bowler had done to him — if not at the same pace, then certainly with the same intent. The left-armer asked for the extra over, making Ishant Sharma wait, and got his man, with the ball of fuller length from around the wicket.

Ashwell Prince (39 n.o.) held India up, first with Paul Harris and then with Morne Morkel. The left-handed Prince clipped the seamers off his legs when not pulling them, hitting the stroke with an economy of motion. His decision not to take the single, especially when batting with Morkel, was questionable, particularly given the defensive fields India set to the tail-ender and considering how comfortable he looked. South Africa's only chance was to force India to panic by getting close.

For a period, both sides played bizarre cricket, India offering runs and South Africa refusing them. Luckily, Zaheer conjured a magical delivery to terminate Harris' stay, a delivery that angled into the right-hander and left him off the surface to bowl him. Ishant eventually ended Morkel's enterprising innings, having him caught behind after having had him caught at gully off a no-ball.

When Cheteshwar Pujara reacted brilliantly at short-leg, intercepting Lonwabo Tsotsobe's shot and hitting the stumps, it was time (after a brief wait for the third-umpire's decision) for India's cricketers to celebrate the conquest of another bastion abroad. To Headingley, Adelaide, Jamaica, Nottingham, Johannesburg, Perth, Hamilton, and Colombo can now be added Durban.

SCOREBOARD

India — 1st innings: 205

South Africa — 1st innings: 131

India — 2nd innings: 228

South Africa — 2nd innings: G. Smith c Dhoni b Sreesanth 37 (38b, 5x4), A. Petersen c Pujara b Harbhajan 26 (45b, 4x4), H. Amla c Dhoni b Sreesanth 16 (16b, 3x4), J. Kallis c Sehwag b Sreesanth 17 (52b, 2x4), A.B. de Villiers lbw b Harbhajan 33 (76b, 1x6), A. Prince (not out) 39 (108b, 3x4), M. Boucher lbw b Zaheer 1 (6b), D. Steyn c Pujara b Zaheer 10 (24b, 2x4), P. Harris b Zaheer 7 (28b), M. Morkel c Dhoni b Ishant 20 (47b, 3x4), L. Tsotsobe run out 0 (2b), Extras (lb-1, nb-8): 9; Total (in 72.3 overs): 215.

Fall of wickets: 1-63 (Smith), 2-82 (Petersen), 3-82 (Amla), 4-123 (Kallis), 5-136 (de Villiers), 6-143 (Boucher), 7-155 (Steyn), 8-182 (Harris), 9-215 (Morkel), 10-215 (Tsotsobe).

India bowling: Zaheer 17-3-57-3, Ishant 11.3-0-36-1, Sreesanth 14-2-45-3, Harbhajan 29-5-70-2, Tendulkar 1-0-6-0 .

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