Legend Speak

Clive Rice

There has been a great deal of excitement and drama leading up to the first Test between South Africa and ...

Saturday, March 29, 2022

Appraising the performances

 There has been a great deal of excitement and drama leading up to the first Test between South Africa and India. India had a wonderful tour of Australia. They started off their tour with Australia being the dominating force, but India soon got on the pace and then their win in the one day series, beating Australia twice in the One Day final series, so that they did not have to play a third leg, was a magnificent performance. The competition clearly got them battle ready for this South African's – Indian clash. South Africa on the other hand went to prepare in Bangladesh – where Neil McKenzie and Graham Smith broke the world record for the opening partnership.

South Africa then picked the team to go to India and the President of SA Cricket proceeded to pick his own team and leave Andre Nel out of the side and attempted to put Charl Langeveldt in (as a quota player). There is nothing more frustrating for both players as well as the team, than when a politician gets involved in picking the side. The last time that happened was when a South African Prime Minister B J Vorster interfered with the team England picked to tour South Africa and refused permission for D'Olivera to come. South Africa was then banned from world cricket. A shocking state of affairs.

Charl Langeveldt refused to be selected on this basis, and quite rightly so. Zondeki was then selected as the replacement quota player for the team. An extremely discouraging state of affairs for the start of the tour for the team.

The first Test, with 2 days to go, has South Africa in an extremely vulnerable position, despite having got 540 in the first innings. Sehwag's performance up until the end of the third day has been quite brilliant. His 300 so far sets himself up for the world record the way he is playing. His sheer brilliance of dispatching all the bowlers wherever he liked is wonderful to watch. It might be an indication that the pitch is batsman friendly, but it still requires enormous talent to do this with hardly a blemish. Dravid is also a world class player, was probably playing for him and giving him the strike, but even he could not score at the pace that Sehwag was scoring at.

The South African performance to get to 540 has looked remarkably average compared to India's batting. I thought that the Indian tactics might be for the spin attack to dominate the South Africans during this tour and it certainly looks as though that will be the case.

Harris put in a stirling performance today, but I thought there was a remarkable lack of imagination from Smith in terms of rotation of the bowlers and changing tactics to try and stem the flow of runs that were pouring off Sehwag's bat. I thought the lack of variation of angle and pace and field placing as well as possibly giving Sehwag a single and then trying to bowl at his partner who was not scoring at nearly the rate that he was.

There seemed to be a lot of complacency having got 540 on the board. I see India getting close to 800 and hopefully Sehwag beating Brian Lara's record in the process as this innings has been extremely special. South Africa then on the last day will have to save the game against the spin of Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

The South African pace bowlers were nullified completely by the pitch as was the case with the Indian pace attack. The introduction of Kumble and Singh on the first day as early as it happened was a clear indication that India had done their homework on the pitch and South Africa were lacking as only one spinner was definitely not going to be enough. Andre Nel must be very happy that he is not bowling in this game and sitting at home, although his aggression is missed.

South Africa's body language was not the best and I thought that the bowlers were not bowling with purpose today as they were not completing their actions and following through properly. This often happens to bowlers, when they are being belted around the ground. The odd ball turned and bounced and there is a little uneven bounce that is creeping into the game which could spell disaster for South Africa on the last day.

India's new coach Gary Kirsten probably viewed the first day and a half, with South Africa posting 540 with a lot of trepidation but I am sure he is very excited with the team as Sehwag has turned it all around in dramatic fashion, to the delight of every Indian cricket supporter and in fact to any cricket supporter in the world.

I can't wait to see the next two days and watch this drama unfold.