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Sachin Tendulkar leads Indian fightback

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STRIKING EARLY: Andre Nel had India on the backfoot with two quick wickets. Here he appeals for an lbw decision against Rahul Dravid. Photo: AFP
STRIKING EARLY: Andre Nel had India on the backfoot with two quick wickets. Here he appeals for an lbw decision against Rahul Dravid. Photo: AFP

S. Dinakar

  • Sreesanth took four wickets while Kumble took three
  • Tendulkar was dropped by Smith on 21

    Durban: The little man went down on one knee and struck the ball past the cover ropes. In the increasing gloom, this was a majestic stroke, a stroke of rare brightness.

    Sachin Tendulkar's flowing batting was clearly the highlight here, on day two of the second Test.

    When poor visibility put an end to the day's cricket at Kingsmead on Wednesday, India was 103 for three, replying to South Africa's first innings score of 328. The Test is in the balance on a surface conducive to strokeplay.

    Tendulkar (46 batting, 89b, 4x8) and a confident V.V.S. Laxman (10 batting) have added 42 runs in an unbroken fourth wicket stand in 15.1 overs. Play had to be halted 20 minutes after tea; rain is forecast for Thursday.

    Earlier in the day, Ashwell Prince, overnight 98, reached his fifth Test century. The determined left-hander (121, 212b, 16x4) put on vital runs with the tail.

    Flawless batting

    In the afternoon, Tendulkar had the audience spellbound. The South Africans would rue the opportunity missed when skipper Graeme Smith, at first slip, floored a simple offering from Tendulkar (on 21), after the batsman edged medium-pacer Andrew Hall.

    Otherwise, Tendulkar's batsmanship was flawless. His footwork was decisive there was no tentative initial movement and he did use the crease brilliantly.

    When Pollock over-pitched, Tendulkar creamed him through the off-side, head still, left-elbow high. India needed Tendulkar to fire after a disastrous start. Virender Sehwag continues to live dangerously and he keeps paying the price. He attempted an ambitious drive off Nel and was taken brilliantly by a diving Abraham de Villiers at second slip.

    In better form, Sehwag would have pounded the ball through the covers. But he is now struggling for touch. He needs to construct and consolidate.

    Nel, given the new ball, rightly pitched the ball up. He was fortunate, though, to win a leg-before shout against Rahul Dravid with an off-cutter; replays showed the ball would have gone over the stumps. The Indian captain was looking in good nick.

    Wasim Jaffer, walking on thin ice, produced his best innings of the tour so far (26, 73b, 5x4). The opener was well-organised and looked a lot more positive in his approach, often driving pleasingly through the off-side. The right-hander had done all the hard work when he pushed at a Makhaya Ntini delivery that straightened. De Villiers does not drop many in the cordon.

    Ntini, like Nel, bowled a fuller length, even if it meant sacrificing some of his speed. Shaun Pollock, predictably, was tight and probing. Debutant Morne Morkel bowled at a lively pace off a fluent action, but could not always get his line right. Hall was unlucky.

    Solidity

    Prince deserved his moment under the sun in the morning. There is an unmistakable touch of solidity about his ways at the crease.

    The southpaw collected his runs clinically with short-arm jabs square off the wicket, worked the ball off his legs, and ran hard between wickets.

    Prince and Morkel (31 not out, 52, 3 x 4) added a valuable 39 for the ninth wicket. The lanky Morkel appeared surprisingly assured in the middle.

    Dravid began with S. Sreesanth and Anil Kumble, but India could not strike early. The new ball was claimed after 81 overs.

    Prince responded by slamming Zaheer Khan to the point fence, and then despatched Sreesanth to the cover boundary. The left-hander promised more when he drove hard at Sreesanth only to find V.V.S. Laxman plucking a fine, high catch in the slips. The zestful Sreesanth had claimed his fourth wicket.

    Sreesanth then bounced Ntini and hit him on his ribs. Ntini, in return, bludgeoned Sreesanth through the covers. After Ntini struck Zaheer over his head for another boundary, Dravid brought Kumble back. The last wicket pair had added 32 when the leg-spinner won a leg-before shout against Ntini. There had been a sting in the South African tail.

    SCOREBOARD

    South Africa -- 1st innings:

    G. Smith c Tendulkar b Zaheer 5,A.B. de Villiers c Tendulkar bSreesanth 9, H. Amla lbw b Zaheer1, H. Gibbs c Dhoni b Sreesanth63, A. Prince c Laxman bSreesanth 121, M. Boucher bSreesanth 53, S. Pollock c Sehwagb V.R.V. Singh 11, A. Hall lbwb Kumble 0, A. Nel b Kumble 0, M.Morkel (not out) 31, M. Ntini lbw bKumble 16; Extras (lb-3, w-1,nb-14): 18; Total (in 91.3 overs):328.

    Fall of wickets: 1-8 (Smith),2-13 (Amla), 3-28 (de Villiers), 4-122 (Gibbs), 5-222 (Boucher), 6-256 (Pollock), 7-257 (Hall), 8-257(Nel), 9-296 (Prince).India bowling: Zaheer 23-7-83-2, Sreesanth 24-4-109-4,V.R.V. Singh 13-1-60-1, Kumble28.3-1-62-3, Ganguly 3-1-11-0.India - 1st innings: W. Jafferc de Villiers b Ntini 26, V. Sehwagc de Villiers b Nel 0, R. Dravid lbwb Nel 11, S. Tendulkar (batting)46, V.V.S. Laxman (batting) 10;Extras (lb-6, w-1, nb-3): 10; Total(for three wkts. in 38.4 overs):103.

    Fall of wickets: 1-5 (Sehwag),2-35 (Dravid), 3-61 (Jaffer).

    South Africa bowling: Nel 12-2-26-2; Ntini 8-4-12-1; Morkel 6-0-33-0, Pollock 8.4-6-6-0; Hall4-0-20-0.

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