Ganguly and Pathan Rescue India

A maiden first-class century from Irfan Pathan rescued India from a potentially embarrassing situation on the opening day of their tour match against the Rest of South Africa in Potchefstroom.

After being asked to bat first by Jaques Rudolph, India quickly found themselves 1-2 after just seven balls, with both Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag falling for ducks. Stand-in captain VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar steadied the innings, but neither could capitalise on solid starts, as India slumped to 69 for five against some incisive bowling from Morne Morkel.

If there as an ideal situation to make an impression on comeback, this was it. Sourav Ganguly demonstrated the class that has brought him over 15,000 international runs as he counterattacked after lunch. Even a crack to the side of the helmet from a fearsome Nantie Hayward bouncer could not prevent the former Test captain from outshining his team-mates as he lashed 13 boundaries in a 141-ball 83.

Having joined Ganguly at the fall of the fifth wicket, Pathan appeared at ease with the pace and bounce in the wicket, matching his senior partner boundary-for-boundary. Both were especially dominant against Paul Adams, the slow left arm bowler recalled today into the full South African Test side, who conceded 54 runs from nine overs. With the Indian positioned firmly secured as the tea interval approached, Pathan took centre stage and crashed his way to fifty in 81 balls.

Even the departure of Ganguly, caught behind off Friedel de Wet after a sixth-wicket stand of 139, did not slow Pathan; indeed, the arrival of Harbhajan Singh at the crease serenaded an increase in the tempo. In his usual unorthodox style, the off-spinner opened his shoulders to clatter a 47, including two sixes off Adams, before perishing to mid-on late in the day. Pathan meanwhile continued to impress, bringing up his hundred by depositing Jean-Paul Duminy into the stands at mid-wicket. India closed the day on a more than healthy 316 for seven, with Pathan finishing on 111 from 176 balls, with 15 fours and the one solitary maximum. He will resume tomorrow with Zaheer Khan, who survived being dropped in the gully off Morkel, who was a constant threat.

Indians 316-7 (85 overs)
Sourav Ganguly 83, Irfan Pathan 111*, Harbhajan Singh 47
Morne Morkel 4-74

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