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Hall props SA as Kumble strikes

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Last updated on: November 20, 2004 17:33 IST


South Africa showed on day one of the first Test against India that there is no substitute for determination.

Andrew Hall, opening the innings for the first time in Test cricket, led the way with a gritty unbeaten 78, while Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, who both scored 37 runs, provided early resistance with stubborn knocks.

At close of play, South Africa were 230 for four wickets after 92 overs, at a run-rate of 2.5.

Boeta Dippenaar, 46, gave Hall good support as the duo put on an unfinished 76-run stand for the fifth wicket.

For India, ace leg spinner Anil Kumble claimed all the wickets to fall as the rest of the bowlers struggled to make an impression.

Kumble claimed the experienced Kallis (37) and Jacques Rudolph (0) off consecutive deliveries in the penultimate over before tea to check a spirited fightback from the South Africans after he had bagged the scalps of captain Smith and Martin van Jaarsveld before lunch.

Morning session

South Africa captain Graeme Smith won the toss and chose to bat.

The tourists included two uncapped players, 29-year-old all-rounder Zander de Bruyn and 25-year-old wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile in the team.

India captain Sourav Ganguly returned to the side after missing the last two matches in the recent 2-1 home series defeat by Australia due to a groin strain.

Ganguly replaced middle-order batsman Mohammad Kaif from the side that beat Australia in the fourth and final Test in Mumbai earlier this month. Paceman Irfan Pathan also failed to find a place in the team as India went into the match with three spinners -- Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Murali Karthik.

Because of India's decision to go into the match with just one seamer in Zaheer Khan, it was important for them to get an early breakthrough so that the spinners would have a chance to bowl at Jacques Kallis, South Africa's most experienced batsman who has been averaging 90.44 in 2004, early in the innings.

The first hour was pretty uneventful for India, as Ganguly, who opened the attack, and Zaheer struggled to make any headway against Smith and Andrew Hall. At the end of the first hour, after 12 overs, South Africa were 44 for no loss and Ganguly had already turned to spin at both ends in the form of Kumble and Harbhajan.

There was uneven bounce even in the first hour and one got the feeling the wicket will only get worse as the match goes on.

The spinners slowly found their rhythm and, more importantly, the right pace to bowl on the slow wicket.

The first chance of the match to go a begging was with the South African total on 56. The ball took the inside edge off Smith's bat onto the pad and then, as Karthik moved towards the leg-side, hit the pads and changed direction. Kathik couldn't react quickly enough to the last-second deflection. Smith was on 33.

Luckily enough for India and Karthik, Kumble accounted for the South African skipper's wicket five runs later. The big left-hander defended against a Kumble delivery but the angle of the bat allowed the ball to bounce and roll onto the stumps. Smith was gone after scoring 37 off 66 balls, inclusive of five boundaries. (61 for 1)

The partnership for the first wicket had done its job and kept the Indians at bay for over an hour. But now with one wicket gone things could change quickly. It has been seen time and again that in India wickets tend to fall in heaps.

New batsman Martin van Jaarsveld (2) made the cardinal mistake of trying to play Kumble on the back foot and was trapped plumb in front of the stumps. (69 for 2)

That got Kallis, who averages 85.00 in India, to the middle with just around 10 minutes to go for lunch.

Karthik took Harbhajan's place in the attack in the 27th over and the normally dour Kallis showed his intentions by using his feet to the spinner.

When lunch was called, South Africa were 80 for the loss of two wickets in 28 overs. Andrew Hall, 29, and Kallis, 8, were at the crease.

Post-lunch session

The first ten overs after lunch yielded 34 runs and the South African batsmen appeared in no trouble whatsoever. Kallis, in particular, looked well set.

Hall, who opened the innings for the first time in his career, quietly posted his third fifty in Test cricket.

The Indians had to make huge adjustments after having played an aggressive Australian line-up very recently. Against the Aussies, they could count on the batsmen making mistakes while going for quick runs, but the South Africans seemed content to let the runs come at a slow rate.

Just when it seemed as if India's spinners were running out of ideas, Ganguly turned to Kumble and Harbhajan to make the much-needed breakthrough after giving Karthik an extended 12-over spell.

South Africa reached 150 in 54 overs.

Kumble and Harbhajan tried hard, bringing all their variations into play, but Hall and Kallis stood firm. Then, as it happened in the first session, two wickets followed a dropped catch.

Hall was dropped on 55 at deep cover by Kumble, who failed to hold on to a high catch that was hit flat and over his head. Harbhajan, who had Smith dropped off his bowling in the first session, was the bowler to suffer again.

But Kumble provided the breakthrough and brought the 85-run partnership for the third wicket to an end.

Kallis, who was looking increasingly composed, tried to sweep a straight delivery but failed to make contact. The ball hit the pad in line with the stumps and umpire Simon Taufel had no hesitation in sending the right-hander back to the pavilion.

Kallis had scored 37 off 108 balls. When on 33, Kallis reached 6,000 runs in Test cricket.

New batsman Jacques Rudolph was sent back to the pavilion off the next ball. The dismissal was like a replay of Smith's. After being in a relatively comfortable position at 154 for 2, South Africa suddenly handed India the initiative once again.

Kumble's figures read 19-8-34-4

At tea, South Africa were 159 for 4 after 59 overs. Andrew Hall, 57, and new batsman Boeta Dippenaar, yet to open his account, were at the crease.

Post-tea session

South Africa tried to consolidate after the break but one got the feeling that they allowed the Indian bowlers to dictate terms and then found it hard to break the shackles.

The visitors scored at a slow rate throughout the session and will be aware that a few early wickets on day 2 will allow India back into the game.

Hall, though he consumed a lot of deliveries while at the crease, was a revelation. It was only this morning that the South African team management decided to ask him to open the innings as Kallis will not be able to bowl in the match.

Dippenaar, at the other end, started off well but then he too was content to defend as the day neared the end.

In retrospect, Ganguly's decision to include three spinners and drop Irfan Pathan seems to have worked in South Africa's favour. There was just not enough variety in the attack and one of the main reasons that India did not take the second new ball as soon as it was available would be because of the lack of quality pacemen.

Pathan has the ability to swing the new ball and generate reverse swing as well. Zaheer bowled well but hardly put the batsmen in a spot of bother.

The cricket in general was dull as South Africa reached 200 in 79.2 overs.

Kumble had taken the four wickets to fall in the first two sessions but the visitors were more than content to keep their wickets intact in the post-tea period.

The Indians' field placing lacked imagination and the team did not really experiment enough. Ganguly's frustration could be gauged by the fact that he introduced Sachin Tendulkar's leg spin into the attack late in the day.

At close of play, South Africa had reached 230 for four after 92 overs at a run-rate of 2.5. In the last session of the day, they scored 71 runs in 33 overs.

Andrew Hall batted all day for 78 runs, which came off 274 deliveries, including nine boundaries. Dippenaar was unbeaten on 46 off 108 deliveries.

Ashish Magotra