India in SA

Elements to aid SA further?

2010-12-27 09:28
Sachin Tendulkar (File)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – India, it seems, are trying to construct a defiant case that anything around 250 in their first innings may represent a competitive position in the second Test against the Proteas at Kingsmead.

A combination of the weather outlook - disadvantageous as it already has been for them and now tipped to remain so - and some statistical history suggests that may be an optimistic view.

The tourists were to resume their first knock on day two on Monday at an iffy 183 for six, and may just find that VVS Laxman’s “250” contention after the premature close to the first day was wide of the mark as a beacon of supposed hope and inspiration to them.

Of course that was always likely to be their initial goal when hostilities resumed, with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh the useful enough pairing to coax the total toward that landmark before the true tail started.

 But the Indians may just find that even if they were able to hobble there, or a bit beyond, there is no guarantee that they will be “in business” in this encounter from their position of 1-0 down in the series.

For one thing, the wretched luck they have had on the weather front in the series so far – two lost tosses in conditions to make seam bowlers almost slobber with glee – was set to stalk them for a bit longer.

Sunday night’s forecast suggested that significantly drier and sunnier conditions were in the offing for Durban for the middle three days or so of the Test, including Monday.

And with the top six names in their order already back in the hut, courtesy mostly of the unfailingly lethal Dale Steyn, it was doubtful that even welcome sun on their remaining batsmen’s backs would be enough to steer them to a position of genuine first-innings strength.

Any lingering moisture in the track, in fact, was quite possibly only going to be drained from it as they completed their knock, rather than make life difficult for Graeme Smith and the other replying South Africans in their in-form top order.

It is widely felt that, generally speaking, when the sun comes through powerfully enough at Kingsmead it can transform a “mamba” into a belter with startling haste, so India’s torment from the elements (a trend that started on day one of the surrendered Centurion match) may not be over.

Neutrals will doubtless be sympathetic to their modern plight when it comes to the toss: India have apparently won a miserly one of their last 15.

Statistics at the ground, too, illustrate quite powerfully that the second innings of Test matches there can be very productive ones.

That was certainly the case in the corresponding fixture in this date slot at Kingsmead last season, when England easily eclipsed the Proteas’ 343 with a follow-up of 574 for nine declared en route to their innings victory – days two and three were near-idyllic for batting.

Five of the seven highest Test totals in Durban come in the post-isolation era, with three of them in the first innings of the team batting second.

South Africa’s best ever total on home soil, in fact, and second-best overall, came batting second at Kingsmead: a monster 658 for nine declared against West Indies in the Boxing Day Test of 2003.

The Windies’ first knock of 264 was quickly made to look feeble and inadequate as Jacques Kallis cracked 177, Herschelle Gibbs 142 and Gary Kirsten – ironically now India’s coach – 137 to pound their attack into submission.

So will 250 or thereabouts indeed be shown to be cause for some Indian pleasure in this Test match? We ought to find out soon enough ...

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