Indian bowlers restrict South Africa to 265

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali, IANS

Kanpur : Desperate to square the series, Indian bowlers struck late to restrict South Africa’s first innings to 265 on the opening day of the third and final Test here Friday.

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From a healthy 152 for one, the visitors crashed in the last session, losing six wickets for 90 runs on a Green Park pitch that did not play any tricks as such to warrant the collapse.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and pacer Ishant Sharma, who is back in the side recovering from a finger injury, took three wickets each and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla bagged two after South Africa failed to capitalise on a good start given by openers Graeme Smith (69) and Neil Mckenzie (36).

Skipper Anil Kumble failed to pass the fitness test on a groin injury, but the side did not appear to have missed his bowling as stand-in captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni used his resources cleverly after the Proteas chose to bat.

Smith and McKenzie added 61-runs for the first wicket when the latter fell to Chawla. After McKenzie’s dismissal, Hashim Amla (51, 101 balls, 6x4s) joined his captain and the two batted with determination to consolidate the position by raising 91 runs for the second wicket.

But the middle order failed to build on the solid start and surrendered the initiative to the spinners who, it must be said, did not gain any unfair advantage from the pitch as the visitors feared before the start of the game.

It will not be easy for the Indian batsmen when they go in Saturday as the pace bowlers too can exploit the uneven bounce of the pitch. Remember they will have bat in the fourth innings, though the South African have a lone spinner in Paul Harris.

South Africa scored 80 and lost only McKenzie’s wicket in the first session. Dhoni introduced spin pretty early in the morning as Sharma and Sreesanth made little impression with the new ball. But then there was little for Harbhajan and Chawla straightaway.

Indian bowlers recovered a fair ground in the second session as they claimed three wickets, though the South Africans scored 95 runs. After the fall of a resolute-looking Smith, caught by Wasim Jaffer off left-arm spinner Yuvraj at forward short leg, South Africa suddenly crumbled and lost three wickets for nine runs in 4.2 overs. Sharma bowled Amla and Harbhajan castled Kallis to put India back in the game. From 152 for one, South Africa slumped to 161 for four.

The third session completely belonged to the Indians as the South African batsmen made a procession with indiscreet strokes.

A.B. de Villiers and (25, 45 balls, 3x4s) and wicketkeeper Mark Boucher (29, 59 balls, 3x4s) tried to resurrect the innings, but once they left the tail failed to wag.

Sharma, who missed the first two Tests with a toe and finger injury, bowled with gusto in challenging conditions. Harbhajan had a long spell and kept the batsmen in check with his uncanny variation.

South Africa, who have only one Test series win in India in 1999-2000, are leading 1-0 in this series following their innings and 90 runs in the second Test in Ahmedabad. The first match in Chennai was drawn.