India Fighting Hard To Stave Off Big Defeat
After being blown away for 76 in the first essay and then conceding a huge lead of 418 to South Africa, hosts India were struggling hard to stave off defeat in the second cricket Test at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Motera here on Saturday.
After the visitors declared at their overnight first innings total of 494 for seven, aided by A B de Villiers unbeaten 217, the home team were tottering at 95 for three at lunch on the third day.
Openers Virender Sehwag (17) and Wasim Jaffer (19) and Rahul Dravid (17) were the batsmen to be dismissed in the first session, once again beaten by the extra pace and movement extracted by the visiting team's fast bowlers even on the slow-paced track on which the home team's batsmen had toiled hard.
At lunch V V S Laxman, who struck some superb straight drives for fours in his attractive 19 in 22 balls with four fours, and Sourav Ganguly (10) were at the crease to try and execute what looked a daunting task. The hosts needed to score 323 runs to avoid an innings defeat with eight sessions left.
The weight of having been buried under the huge lead, the biggest ever gained by the Proteas over India, also seemed to be working on the Indian batsmen's minds. Sehwag, who struck two sixes in the first over of the innings off Dale Steyn and a four in his short stay of 32 minutes in which he faced 20 balls, was trapped leg before by the other new ball bowler Makhaya Ntini.
Dravid fended a short ball from the tall Morne Morkel straight to de Villiers at second slip, who also snapped up Jaffer at the same position when the batsman edged a loosely played drive off Jaques Kallis. Sehwag, who survived a close leg before shout previously, was beaten by a sharp incoming ball from the Proteas' most experienced pacer, and was rapped on the pads while playing half cock.
The Delhi swashbuckler raised glimpses of his Chennai innings when he swung Steyn, the most successful SA bowler in the Indian first innings with a five-wicket haul, for a six over fine leg and then followed suit with another flicked six in the same area.
Unable to come anywhere near to repeating his blitzkrieg 319 in the drawn series opener at Chennai, Sehwag perished to the bowling of Makhaya Ntini in the eighth over after giving glimpses of his capability by carting Steyn for two sixes in the first over of the second innings.
But it was too good to last as the SA bowlers started pitching the ball up and swung it too to shackle his stroke making and then managed to dismiss him cheaply for the second time in the match. He made only 9 in the first innings and fell to Steyn.
Jaffer lived dangerously, playing and missing a few times and once nearly fending a short ball dug in by the lanky Morne Morkel to the close-in fielders' hands, and looked to have settled down a bit before needlessly trying to drive a ball away from his body.
The start of play, scheduled to begin at 9 am to make up for lost time last evening due to unseasonal rains, was delayed by half an hour due to dampness in the square surrounding the wicket and the outfield.
The first session of play was held from 9.30 to 12.30 am, as on the first two days, the second session is to be extended by half an hour (12.10 pm to 2.40 pm) and the last session scheduled from 3 pm to 5.42 pm with a provision to extend it by half an hour - to accommodate 98 overs during the day. On Friday, 12.4 overs were lost when thundershowers drenched the ground and forced the players off the field in the final session.