CRICKET / South Africa draws first blood with a thumping 135-run win; Tsotsobe takes four wickets
Among the many delightful eccentricities that colour cricket, none perhaps is as intriguing as the behaviour of the white ball under lights in Kingsmead.
The locals guarantee that the turning of the tide brings swing — India has had some experience of this mystifying phenomenon, against England in the 2003 World Cup when its bowlers confounded the opposition batsmen with movement, and against South Africa in 2006 when its own batsmen were dismissed for 91.
But India's miserable batting performance in the first ODI on Wednesday, under a grey-pink night sky, had little to do with the tide or its turning. It had nothing to do with swing, for the ball rarely bent in the air, not even for Dale Steyn.
India's doleful collapse had to do with bounce. It wasn't surprising that, after the match, Graeme Smith suggested the wicket had stayed the same from afternoon to night while M.S. Dhoni said it had changed.
It certainly seemed like a different wicket — but only because South Africa's bowlers, who are taller, stronger, and faster than their counterparts, hit the deck with intent where India's seamers had merely got the ball to kiss the surface.
It must be said, however, that despite this apparent shortcoming, Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel were controlled and effective. Had Ashish Nehra bowled similarly, India would have been pursuing a smaller target than 290.
But the primary reason for India's defeat wasn't the bowling. It was the batting.
All four wickets that fell with the ball still new were a consequence, either direct or indirect, of bounce (and the implied threat of pace). Dale Steyn swiftly had India in the brambles. M. Vijay's problems with the full ball early in his innings continued; again his feet let him down, not transferring him forward — another illustration of why the full ball is most dangerous on wickets with bounce.
Three for one became 13 for two when Sachin Tendulkar tried to walk across and help Lonwabo Tsotsobe around the corner.
The angle from left-arm over and the bounce off a length made the stroke impossible to control.
Morne Morkel struck twice in the 11th over to cripple India. Rohit Sharma, who played and missed in between striking one classy back-foot drive, was adjudged caught behind off a ball that was too good for him; he didn't touch it.
But once given out, he had no business protesting.
Yuvraj Singh then fended a lifter to slip, as India slid to 43 for four.
The 52-run stand between Virat Kohli (54) and Dhoni staunched the haemorrhage, but it couldn't revivify the innings. Kohli, who walked in at one-drop, looked streaky against the new ball when it was outside the line of off-stump.
But the edged stroke, of which there were several, not only eluded the catchers, it also brought runs.
To his credit, Kohli battled hard — he looked like he relished the challenge of batting against pace and bounce. Encouragingly, Kohli had time to play off his pads. When Steyn or Morkel strayed even slightly, he worked the ball with ease to the on-side.
Dhoni, who promoted himself above Suresh Raina, found a way — as he so often does despite seeming unconvincing — to survive the difficult period. But Dhoni left in unfortunate circumstances (run out at the
non-striker's end, backing up), and the Batting Power Play hastened the end.
In between there was a crumb of comfort: Raina endured a short-pitched attack (for a short period against a softer ball) to make bold strokes. But it didn't affect the contest.
South Africa — 289 for nine in 50 overs
India: M. Vijay lbw b Steyn 1 (3b), S. Tendulkar c Steyn b Tsotsobe 7 (11b), V. Kohli c Smith b Steyn 54 (70b, 2x4, 1x6), Rohit c de Villiers b Morkel 11 (27b, 1x4), Yuvraj c Smith b Morkel 2 (4b), M.S. Dhoni (run out) 25 (35b, 1x4), S. Raina c Ingram b Tsotsobe 32 (36b, 2x4, 1x6), Harbhajan b Parnell 0 (4b), Zaheer c Duminy b Tsotsobe 6 (16b), A. Nehra b Tsotsobe 1 (7b), Munaf (not out) 1 (1b); Extras (b-4, w-10): 14. Total (in 35.4 overs): 154.
Fall of wickets: 1-3 (Vijay), 2-13 (Tendulkar), 3-41 (Rohit), 4-43 (Yuvraj), 5-95 (Dhoni), 6-128 (Kohli), 7-129 (Harbhajan), 8-148 (Raina), 9-153 (Nehra), 10-154 (Zaheer).
South Africa bowling: Steyn 6-0-29-2, Tsotsobe 8.4-0-31-4, Morkel 5-0-12-2, Parnell 7-0-25-1, Botha 7-0-46-0, Duminy 2-0-7-0.
Power Plays: One (1-10): 41/2; Bowling (11-15): 16/2; Batting (30-34): 23/3 .