Coach Gary Kirsten lavished praise on Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh for their late strikes on the opening day of the second Test against South Africa at Kolkata.
“We were in trouble at tea, let’s be honest about that.
We were in a spot of bother. All credit to bowlers for turning it around. They showed tremendous resilience. The bowlers in this series have actually bowled very well and they have not got the rewards they would have liked to get,” Kirsten said.
“You must remember when you pick four bowlers in absence of a fifth one in team’s scheme of things, it’s an enormous workload on the bowlers,” Kirsten said at the press conference after day’s play.
Zaheer and Harbhajan picked up three wickets apiece to reduce South Africa to 266 for nine after the visitors dominated the first two sessions owing to centuries by Hashim Amla (114) and debutant Alviro Petersen (100).
The hosts picked up seven wickets in the post-tea session conceding just 38 runs before bad light stopped play.
“Zaheer is the leader of our attack. So full credit to the bowlers for the way they are performing in the Indian team. We have been backing ourselves to get 20 wickets in a Test and they are doing the business,” Kirsten said.
Kirsten also backed lanky paceman Ishant Sharma who was lackluster in his first spell but found his rhythm in the later part of the day.
Though he had just one wicket to show, the pace he generated in the final session rattled the visiting batsmen.
“It was a great spell and a very important one. More than getting wickets, it just set the tone for what we really wanted to achieve after tea. We feel he is on the edge of doing some good things. He is an exceptionally talented bowler and he is coming back to really some nice form,” Kirsten said.
“I thought he really bowled a nice aggressive spell. He wanted to get his pace up, he was getting 140kph,” the former South African cricketer added.
Kirsten also praised offspinner Harbhajan Singh, who along with Zaheer, was instrumental in India’s turnaround and ended the opening day with figures of 23-2-63-3.
“Harbhajan bowled really well in the last game. The South Africans played him really well in the last game. He needed to come up with ways to get wickets,” Kirsten said.
“Don’t look at the results but look at the bowling. I have been very confident that he has got better and better as the series has gone along. We know he is a strike bowler. When he gets it going and the confidence is high, he is going to get wickets also,” he added.