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26 Mar 2008 14:23
South Africa revelled in good batting conditions to pile up 304-4 on the opening day of the first cricket Test against India on Wednesday.
Neil McKenzie (94), skipper Graeme Smith (73) and Hashim Amla (85 not out) laid the foundation for a big total as the Indian bowlers toiled in oppressive weather and an unresponsive wicket at the Chidambaram Stadium.
McKenzie and Smith provided the momentum with an opening stand of 132 in their first outing since compiling a world-record partnership of 415 against Bangladesh in Chittagong earlier this month.
The duo batted through the morning session to put on 109 by lunch after Smith won the toss and took first strike on a placid wicket.
Smith made 73 when he lost his wicket against the run of play midway through the post-lunch session, on-driving Anil Kumble to short mid-wicket where Venkatsai Laxman moved to his right to take a smart catch.
Smith fell soon after he had slammed three boundaries in one over from seamer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, but McKenzie and Amla put on 64 for the second wicket to further frustrate the Indians.
McKenzie, who was recalled to the South African side in January after three years in the wilderness, missed a fourth Test century when he edged off-spinner Harbhajan Singh to Rahul Dravid in the slips just before tea.
Harbhajan struck again on resumption, having Jacques Kallis caught at forward short-leg by Wasim Jaffer for 13 to leave South Africa 244-3.
Amla and Ashwell Prince carried the total to 291 when 37-year-old Kumble, the India captain, dived to his left to pick up a low return catch off Prince.
The umpires agreed to have two drinks breaks every session, instead of the mandatory one, as on-field temperatures touched 38 degrees Celsius with 75% humidity.
Smith and McKenzie, who both hit double centuries during their record stand in Chittagong, were in prime form as they flayed the Indian seam attack of Rudra Pratap Singh and Sreesanth in the morning session.
Runs flowed freely from their blades as McKenzie opened his account by flicking Rudra Pratap to the square-leg fence, and took two more boundaries off the same bowler.
Smith cut Sreesanth to point and then slashed him over the slips before the seamer beat the South African captain twice outside the off-stump.
Kumble, who came on with his leg-spin in the 11th over, was welcomed by McKenzie with two fours in one over.
The tourists went in with three seamers and a lone specialist spinner in left-armer Paul Harris on a barren wicket expected to help slow bowlers later in the match.
India opted for two seamers and as many spinners, preferring to play seven batsmen in the first match of the three-Test series.—AFP
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