Hall century puts South Africa on top
November 21, 2004
South Africa 459 for 7 (Hall 163, de Bruyn 83, Kumble 5-116) v India
A batsman opening the innings for the first time in Tests and another making his debut gave fantastic exhibitions of technique, concentration, and temperament, as South Africa wrested control of the Kanpur Test. Andrew Hall converted his maiden Test century into his highest first-class score, making a monumental 163, while Zander de Bruyn made a composed 83. Together, they ran the Indian attack ragged, adding 144 for the sixth wicket as South Africa closed the second day on 459 for 7.
The move to open with Hall was a masterstroke, but even the South African think-tank wouldn't have expected the benefits to be so substantial. His technique and his reading of the pitch were excellent, but the outstanding aspect of his innings was his unflagging concentration and his relentless hunger to keep accumulating the runs. There were a few expansive strokes along the way, especially when the bowlers offered him width outside off, but for the most part he played within himself, knocking the ball around for singles, and was totally unruffled by long scoreless periods. His previous-highest Test score – 99 not out against England at Headingley in 2003 – had come off just 87 balls, but here he played a totally uncharacteristic innings, but one that perfectly suited the needs of his team.
If Hall's defensive ability was a revelation, then so was the skill and composure of de Bruyn. With nine seasons of domestic cricket behind him, de Bruyn, 29, batted as if he was just turning up for another game for the Easterns. He was completely unfazed by the famed Indian spin attack and by a pitch which showed signs of breaking up, soon demonstrating why he has a first-class average of 42 and a highest of 266 not out. His first two scoring shots were fours – a straight-drive off Sourav Ganguly and a sweep off Harbhajan Singh – and, once set, he brought out some more adventurous strokes too, tonking Harbhajan for three sixes. In between those few moments of aggression were long periods of solid defence.
India had spent long fruitless hours in the field yesterday as well, but were saved by a couple of double-strikes by Anil Kumble. Today, there was little respite. Their best passage of play was in the first hour, when Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan bowled superbly with the second new ball. Only 15 came from the first 12 overs, and there was a success to celebrate too, when Ganguly had Boeta Dippenaar caught behind for 48 (241 for 5). But as the early morning freshness evaporated from the Green Park pitch, so did the enthusiasm of the Indians in the field.
The pitch was expected to provide plenty of assistance to the spinners, but though there were bits of the surface coming off on occasions, the ball seldom did anything unexpected. There was little pace in the wicket, and once Hall and de Bruyn saw off the early overs, they were rarely troubled. Ganguly tried most tricks in his bag – the three specialist spinners bowled lengthy spells, Sachin Tendulkar bowled nine overs of legspin, sometimes generating plenty of turn, while Zaheer threatened occasionally with his ability to reverse-swing the old ball. Nothing, though, could unsettle Hall and de Bruyn.
Hall carried on from where he had left off on the first day. He was unusually quick to get through the nineties, though, stroking a couple of cover-drives off Ganguly and then sweeping Kumble for a four to reach his century, which came off 325 balls. His reaction to the landmark told the story – he raised his bat towards the dressing-room, shook hands with de Bruyn, and then promptly continued with his job.
As the partnership continued to grow, the frustration told on the Indians in the field. There were a couple of shocking misfields – one of them, by Zaheer at mid-off, brought up Hall's 150 – and some ridiculous appealing – a couple of times, Kumble, bowling from round the wicket, asked for an lbw verdict when the ball had pitched at least a couple of feet outside leg. He did finally get the breakthrough – and his fifth wicket of the innings – bowling Hall round his legs just before tea (385 for 6).
After tea, a demoralised Indian team settled for a defensive line, with Kartik bowling a over-the-wicket, outside-leg line. The South Africans didn't attempt to force either, and only 61 came from 33 over after tea. de Bruyn fell 17 short of a deserving century when he edged a drive to slip, and Harbhajan's exaggerated celebration was an indication of India's frustration in the field. Thami Tsolekile, the other debutant in the side, got his first international runs too, and with Shaun Pollock still around and Robin Peterson to follow, South Africa weren't quite done yet.