On the third morning of the Centurion test, South Africa scored 225 runs before lunch on the back of 119 frenetic runs, in 95 balls, by De Villiers. That assault gave Smith the luxury of an early declaration to hedge against any possibility of rain coming to India’s rescue.
But the ease with which Sehwag and Gambhir batted in the second innings showed India’s first innings to be an aberration, on a rain affected wicket. With the wicket having dried out, it is more like a sub-continental playing surface, as the South African batsmen have since demonstrated.
Both Sehwag and Gambhir were out against the run of play, and with Dravid looking as though he’s got his eye in, India are capable of saving the match. But they might need to bat till an hour after tea on the fifth day to be certain. They are currently about 300 adrift of making South Africa bat again.
Assuming 100 runs were scored every session, India would be 200 runs ahead at tea on the last day, leaving South Africa about 35 overs to get them in. On this wicket, that’s gettable. So to be certain of saving the game, India would need to bat well past tea.
Some pressure is bound to be there, as any wicket lost by India would take South Africa a step closer to victory. That said, the Indian batsmen would be better off playing positively and keeping the scoreboard moving at at least three runs an over.
Of course, I am not taking rain interruptions into account. Rain, if any, could be a double-edged sword, as we have seen. If it does rain, it would be in India’s interest that such a downpour goes on long enough to render further play impossible, as Dhoni’s men wouldn’t be keen to see a repetition of the first innings.
So assuming that the weather holds, India should take it session by session. With no perceptible help to the bowlers, this is a great setting for Tendulkar to craft his 50th test century. With Laxman to follow, the South African bowlers could be in for their longest haul ever.
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Jinxatious is the Chief Editor of SportingAttitude.com
An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.