India crash to 116 for nine at stumps
South Africa had India in trouble on 136/9 at stumps on day one of the first Test at Supersport Park on Thursday.
Morne Morkel bagged four wickets and Dale Steyn three as India were unable to stem the tide.
“It was our day today,” said Morkel afterwards, “and we’ll happily take it”.
Graeme Smith won the toss and put India into bat after heavy rain delayed the start of the match.
When play finally got under way, it wasn’t long before Virender Sehwag was back in the pavilion for a duck. He scooped a ball from Steyn to third man where Hashim Amla was waiting for it.
Finding themselves one down with just one run on the board, Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid defended some accurate and hostile bowling.
There was a strong appeal for caught behind when a snorter from Morkel appeared to come off the glove of Gambhir but umpire Steve Davis indicated the ball came off his shoulder.
Without the decision review system, the batsman may have been lucky to get away with it, but after prodding around for an hour, he only managed to accumulate five runs before he was caught by Paul Harris at first slip as Morkel finally got his scalp.
Sachin Tendulkar, currently ranked the number two batsman in the world after Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, was given a warm welcome when he walked out and the master batsman treated spectators to a variety of magnificent boundaries, played on both sides of the crease.
Dravid (14) was next to go when he was given out lbw to Morkel and India were in serious trouble at 27/3.
India’s 50 came up in the 19th over off 119 balls and included seven fours and went in to tea at 55/3 with Tendulkar was not out on 22 and VVS Laxman unbeaten on six.
Steyn struck again after tea removing Laxman’s middle stump adding just one run to this tally.
Suresh Raina came and went within a few minutes as he was caught at third slip by Ashwell Prince giving Jacques Kallis his only wicket of the day.
India found themselves in total disarray when, in the next over, Steyn took the big wicket of Tendulkar, trapping him lbw, just when he seemed to be in his stride.
Tendulkar was at the crease for just over an hour and his innings of 36 included eight fours.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh entertained briefly as India’s 100, off 193 balls, was brought up by a six from Harbhajan. However, the batsman was run out shortly afterwards in dramatic fashion.
His cameo innings of 27 off 25 balls (4x4, 1x6) ended when he was slow to turn for a third run and Alviro Petersen threw in from deep cover to Mark Boucher.
The wicketkeeper threw the ball underhand at the stumps and, Harbhajan, having dropped his bat along the way, was just short of the crease.
“My bat just got stuck,” said the embarrassed batsman afterwards.
“We like a challenge and we think we can still make a match of it. It’s far from over,” said Harbhajan who blamed the toss for all his team’s woes.
“It’s always tough to lose the toss on this sort of wicket—some balls were stopping and some were going through—but South Africa took their wickets by bowling in the right areas.
“If we’d won the toss, I like to think we’d have done the same thing.”
Morkel’s third scalp was Ishant Sharma (1) caught Kallis at second slip and his fourth was Sree Sreesanth, caught Steyn at mid-off.
Dhoni and debutant Jaydev Unadkat survived to stumps on 33 and one not out, respectively.
‘We bowled really well’
Morkel, the pick of the bowlers, ended with figures of 4/20 ably supported by Steyn with 3/34.
“We bowled really well today,” said Morkel. “It wasn’t as easy as it looked out there but we switched between shorter and fuller deliveries with ease.
“We were under pressure winning the toss and sending them in to bat, so it was important to execute well. We kept our cool and did all the basics right,” he said.
“It’s also good not to forget your aggression or your strength and it was a good feeling seeing the ball fly through.
“There was so much build-up about the wicket but we were perfect today and landed the balls in all the right areas, so if they [the Indians] had any doubts in their minds, it played in our favour.”
Morkel said he was’t worried about batting on the pitch as the key was to ‘leave’ well.
“The ball nips around a bit but it’s also a touch slow, so when we go out to bat, I think we also need to leave well.
“The key will be patience and to just wait for the ball.”
Play will start half an hour earlier each day, at 10am, to make up for the overs lost earlier in the day. - Sapa