Kallis, Amla put South Africa on top
by Jinu Sabastian
DateLine: 6th February 2010
The South African batting stalwarts Jacques Kallis (159 not out, 286 balls, 14x4, 2x6) and Hashim Amla (115, 225 balls, 11x4) negated the early advantage that India took through the wickets of the openers. The duo added 285 in 84.3 overs as they dominated the Indian bowlers with relative ease.
Smith called correctly at the toss and elected to bat first on a pitch that had all the characteristics of getting low and slow as the match progresses. South Africa went in with the same team that levelled the series against England while India suffered some unexpected injuries. Laxman failed the fitness test while Rohit Sharma injured his ankle while playing football. For the hosts Badrinath and Saha made their Test debuts.
Zaheer Khan immediately got to work as he repeatedly tested Prince's weakness outside the off stump while Smith was all at sea. Prince (0, 10 balls) played and missed a couple of times before he received a brute bouncer from Zaheer which took the arm-guard and lobbed to MS Dhoni behind the stumps. Prince was visibly disappointed as he trudged back into the pavilion. Zaheer then cleaned up a fidgety Smith (6, 26 balls) with an inswinger and the visitors found themselves in deep mess at 6 for 2 in 6.3 overs.
The responsibility of rebuilding the innings fell on the elegant blade of Amla and the dour blade of Kallis. The two saw off a penetrative Zaheer Khan and a steady Sharma and once the spinners were introduced they began to purchase some spin off the track. The batting duo were cautious at the beginning and once they understood the vagaries of the pitch they looked comfortable. Kallis slog-swept an ineffective Harbhajan over midwicket for a huge six and then hammered an unimaginative Mishra over long-on for another six the momentum slowly began to shift.
Kallis mixed perfectly caution with aggression as he negated the turn Indian spinners managed to extract. Amla played the supporting role well as he managed to rotate the strike at every available option. Though Kallis was beaten on several occasions by big leg breaks of Amit Mishra and the reverse swing that Zaheer Khan generated the all-rounder put those behind and continued with his calculated assault on the Indian bowlers. The right-hander soon reached his 34th Test century in 165 balls as he patted a top-spinner from a unimpressive Harbhajan Singh past the leg-slip. With the partnership reaching humongous proposition the hosts needed a breakthrough to get back into the match.
Just after tea Zaheer Khan squared up Amla who edged one behind the stumps but Murali Vijay at slips and keeper Dhoni were immobile as the ball went through them which left Zaheer Khan screaming in agony. Amla had another escape 3.1 overs later when debutant Badrinath failed to anticipate the flight of the ball which was flicked to hi airy at mid-on thus failing to get his palms underneath the ball. Amla brought up his eighth Test century in 204 balls sweeping Harbhajan through square-leg as the South African total surged.