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Sight Screen

Monday, November 28, 2005

Overs 1-10

A standard-issue Wankhede pitch – hard, even, the barest smattering of grass more as binding than as threat, and the luck of the coin going India’s way; Dravid’s decision to bowl first has, IMHO, to be influenced more by the dew factor in the second innings than any anticipation of inordinate help for his seamers in the first. The Wankhede swings – but that is more humidity and atmospherics, and you would expect the ball to move around early in the second innings as well.
Dravid in fact clearly anticipated bowling first if he won the toss, ergo Murli Karthik in the playing eleven, and Gautam Gambhir in the supersub slot; that particular call paid off very well for him.
Irfan Pathan hit his straps running; his first five overs have been as good an exhibition of controlled swing and seam as we’ve seen from him in a long while. The delivery to get rid of Andrew Hall in the 3rd over – fullish, angling across the right hander then straightening inwards after hitting the deck – is the ball he used to bowl a lot early in his career, and which in this spell he’s used a half dozen times in his first five overs.
The contest between Pathan and Smith was the focus of the first ten overs; Smith faced 15 deliveries from the left-arm seamer, and managed 12 dots and 3 singles, against his overall record, in an innings of 24/29, of 18 dots, 5 singles, two twos, one three and three fours. The shackles, in fact, got so tight that at one point, Smith gave Pathan the charge, only to be beaten by an away seamer that swung just past off stump.
Smith’s dismissal was interesting – Pathan again swinging the ball in on a very full length, obviously looking for the LBW against the batsman walking across. Smith spotted the danger and instinctively used the bat as first line of defense, from that angle, all he could do though was scoop it into Bajji at mid on.
At the other end, Agarkar was wayward, splattering the ball around on both sides of the deck, and clearly ill at ease bowling to Smith in particular. 13 runs off his first twelve balls prompted Dravid, this time, to make the switch quickly; RP Singh coming in for the 6th over after Agarkar had gone 15 (including two wides) in his first two overs. RP Singh has been better than Agarkar thus far, though he too has tended to drift to leg on more than one occasion especially against Smith.
41/2 after 10 (19/1 in 5) with Smith gone, and South Africa now have a battle, getting to the 240-250 mark that is, if not a winning score, at the least par on this ground. And the task could get a touch harder in a bit, when the spinners come on – the track seems the kind that will afford both bounce, and a degree of turn.

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