Proteas stumble after comfortable start
Teenage paceman Ishant Sharma and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh shared six wickets as India restricted South Africa to 265 in the third and final Test in Kanpur on Friday.
South Africa were comfortably placed at 152-1 before losing their way on a spin-friendly pitch. Skipper Graeme Smith (69) and Hashim Amla (51) led the way with solid half-centuries.
The 19-year-old Sharma, who missed the first two Tests of the three-match series due to finger and toe injuries, grabbed the vital wickets of Amla and Mark Boucher (29) to finish with 3-55 on a day when spinners did the bulk of the bowling. Harbhajan took 3-52.
Piyush Chawla, a 19-year-old leg-spinner playing only his second Test since his debut in 2006, finished with 2-66, while part-time spinners Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh each bagged one wicket.
South Africa lead 1-0 in the series following their emphatic victory by an innings and 90 runs in the second Test in Ahmedabad.
The opening match ended in a draw in Chennai.
“You have to work hard against spinners on these sorts of wickets and try to hang in as much as you can. There was a lot more turn here than in any other wicket on the first day, so you need to be patient as well,” said Amla.
“We lost too many wickets in the end. Now we will have to pick up early wickets when India come out to bat. There is turn in the wicket, but slow. We have a game at hand. I think as the match goes on spinners will come into play.
“Ishant bowled well and he has got some variations. There were encouraging signs for our bowlers. The bounce was low and there were cracks and they will open up a lot more. I think there will be more variations in bounce too.”
India hardly felt the absence of skipper and ace leg-spinner Anil Kumble as specialist and part-time spinners halted South Africa’s march towards a big total.
Kumble was ruled out after failing to recover from a groin strain, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni becoming the first wicket-keeper to lead India in a Test.
South Africa began strongly after winning the toss, with Smith putting on 61 for the opening wicket with Neil McKenzie (36) and 91 for the next wicket with Amla.
The visitors’ slide started in the afternoon session when they lost three wickets in the space of nine runs.
Left-handed Smith, who swept powerfully and used his feet well against spin, was the first to go after lunch when he was caught off his gloves by diving short-leg fielder Wasim Jaffer to become Yuvraj’s victim.
The South African captain scored comfortably during his 134-ball knock, reaching his 22nd Test half-century with a six off Chawla and then hoisting Yuvraj for a second six. He also hit eight fours.
Amla also countered spin remarkably well as he patiently waited for loose deliveries during his eighth Test half-century before being bowled by Sharma in the afternoon.
India were right back in the game when second-Test century-maker Jacques Kallis played a Harbhajan delivery on to his stumps after scoring just one.
The Indian spinners continued to keep pressure on the batsmen, with AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, Boucher, Morne Morkel, Paul Harris and Dale Steyn falling in the closing session.
De Villiers, who cracked a maiden double-century in the last Test, mistimed a pull off Chawla and was caught by Sourav Ganguly at short mid-wicket while Prince was trapped leg-before by Sehwag.
India struggled for wickets in the morning session, grabbing only one, when Chawla had McKenzie stumped in his opening over.
McKenzie had been looking solid during his 57-ball knock before losing his patience. He stepped out to drive the leg-spinner but was beaten by the flight, with Dhoni completing an easy stumping.—AFP