Fresh from leading India to only their second Test win on five tours of South Africa, Mahendra Singh Dhoni said he would welcome playing the decisive third and final Test in Cape Town on a lively pitch.
“It will be interesting to see what kind of wicket is prepared,” said Dhoni. “The greener the track the better it may be for us.”
Dhoni was speaking after India levelled the series with an 87-run win midway through the fourth day of the second Test at Kingsmead, traditionally the pitch with the most pace and bounce in South Africa — and a surface which had been expected to aid South Africa’s fast bowlers.
Instead of India succumbing to pace, it was the home side who crashed to 131 all out in the first innings, a collapse which South African captain Graeme Smith said cost his team the match.
Dhoni said the Indian bowlers relied on skill rather than express pace. “They are swing bowlers which means the greener the wicket the better it is for the bowlers.”
The win ensured that India would retain their number one ranking in Test cricket, irrespective of the result in the final Test. Second-placed South Africa needed to win the series 3-0 to displace the tourists.
But Dhoni said the ranking was not something which depended on a single victory. “It proves I’ve got a good side,” he said.
“It’s a true reflection. We started this process in September 2008 and we can say that in two years we have done well in most of the places where we have played … since 2008 all those Test matches have had a big impact on the morale and the confidence of the side.”
The Indian captain praised the contribution of man-of-the-match VVS Laxman, whose second innings of 96 was the only half-century of the match, and returning left-arm fast bowler Zaheer Khan, who had match figures of six for 93 and who also, according to Dhoni, played a big role with his on-field advice to the less experienced bowlers.
“It was a very special innings,” Dhoni said of Laxman’s knock. “It was one of those wickets where it was quite difficult to convince yourself that you are set. Those 96 runs really mattered for us.”
Smith, meanwhile, said the match had been lost on the second day when his side were dismissed cheaply.
“It wasn’t a 131 wicket. If we had managed to stay level with India it would have made our task a lot easier in the fourth innings. There were one or two unlucky dismissals and India bowled well but 131 wasn’t good enough.”
Smith rejected a suggestion that after three successive defeats in Durban it was perhaps his own batsmen who were vulnerable on fast, bouncing pitches.
“We have played well at the Wanderers and at other places around the world. We haven’t played well in Durban, it is as simple as that. I think we were a bit loose at times. It was a wicket where you really needed to graft and grind things out.
But Smith praised the Kingsmead pitch.
“It was a good contest between bat and ball. It provided a really good Test match. Every day the game swung and it was tense and that’s what people want to watch.”
Set to make 303, South Africa were bowled out for 215. The match finished an hour after lunch but South Africa’s hopes were effectively ended when overnight batsmen Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers were dismissed in the first hour of the day.
Sree Sreesanth struck the first, crucial blow of the day when he produced a vicious bouncer that star batsman Kallis could only fend off his glove to Virender Sehwag at gully.
Uniformity for reviews
Kallis was out for 17 after he and De Villiers had added 12 runs in half an hour to the overnight total of 111 for three. It was Sreesanth’s third wicket of the innings and came during a fine spell of one for seven in five overs from the start of play.
De Villiers and Mark Boucher fell to debatable leg before wicket decisions, both of which were shown to be incorrect by television replays.
No decision review system is in place for the series because of an Indian veto and the decisions could not be challenged.
Smith said the International Cricket Council needed to act on getting uniformity for reviews.
“The ICC needs to take responsibility,” he said. “They have to lead the way. They can’t leave it up to boards to negotiate these things.
“If the technology is available and they want to trial it and use it, they must use it. We must get used to using it and then we can have a proper idea of whether it works or not. Using it in one of seven series is not going to benefit anybody.” – Sapa-AFP