Wickets galore at Jo’burg

Few matches see three innings in one day. The first Test on India’s tour of South Africa happens to be one of them.

The South African fans who turned out to the Wanderers in Johannesburg will have experienced the full range of cricketing emotions. From elation when the hosts swept the Indian middle and lower order away with 4 wickets for 49 runs at the start of the game to furstration when last man VRV Singh blasted a quickfire 29 and Sourav Ganguly stubbornly refuged to budge. Next came shell-shock and disappointment as the South African batting crumbled to 84 all out, and the journey continued through relief that all was not dead when their seamers replied in kind, before that sinking feeling as VVS Laxman guided the tourists to 311 infront at stumps.

The day started so promisingly for the home side. India began the day in a precarious position at 156-5. And they soon lost the potentially dangerous MS Dhoni (5) when Pollock pulled a spectacular diving catch when Dhoni looked to flay Ntini through the offside.

The South Africans were into the Indian tail early. Kumble (6), Zaheer Khan (9) and Sreesanth (0) didn’t offer much resistance as India stumbled to 205-9. Most of that was thanks to Sourav Ganguly. The ex-captain is playing his first Test for almost a year following being dropped after his well publicised differences with coach Greg Chappell. For a while it didn’t look like another chance would come, and now it has Ganguly will not let go lightly. He was immaculate in his unbeaten innings of 51. Number 11 VRV Singh opened his shoulders also and his 29 off 27 was vital in India reaching 249.

South Africa’s effort with the bat was somewhat less than inspirational. Losing Smith, Gibbs and Amla for just 5 runs between them (all off the bat of Smith) put them immediately on the back foot. Sreesanth tore through South Africa’s batting with 5-40. He received some good support from Zaheer Khan, who claimed 2-32. Kumble and VRV Singh were hardly required but were both in the wickets. It’s a sad story of South Africa’s batting that only 3 of the side reached double figures and the top score was a mere 24 from Ashwell Prince.

The bowlers fared slightly better. Shaun Pollock claimed opposition captain Rahul Dravid as his 400th Test wicket in the process of the hosts reducing India to 61-4, but they couldn’t take advantage of the breakthroughs. VVS Laxman’s unbeaten 42 saw India to 146-5 at stumps. A lead of 311 and the possibility of building on it tomorrow makes the tourists look a good bet to take the match.

India 249 all out
Sourav Ganguly 51*, Sachin Tendulkar 44
Shaun Pollock 4-39, Makhaya Ntini 3-57

South Africa 84 all out
Ashwell Prince 24, Shaun Pollock 21
Sreesanth 5-40, Anil Kumble 2-2

India 146-5
VVS Laxman 42*, Virender Sehwag 33
Shaun Pollock 2-24, Andre Nel 2-38

India lead by 311 runs with 5 2nd innings wickets remaining

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