South Africa was impressive
The Sri Lankan leg of ODI’s did not push the Indians to the limit. They got off to a good start and remained on a roll. The islanders could not string together consistent performances throughout a game to stay in contention or stage a comeback.

Barring the opening game the toss had a bearing in the other four day games when the Sri Lankans were on tour. That is to be expected because the games commenced at 9.00 a.m. due to light fading early during this part of the year. However, in the South African series the ball seamed around even with a mid-afternoon start. To add to the woes of the team batting first, the dew would set in and make it difficult to grip the ball when it came to their turn to bowl.

It was a no-win situation if you lost the toss. So it happened – a one hundred percent record – the team winning the toss won all four games. Nobody is complaining much because the two captains won two tosses each and the series was drawn. It is an issue that the authorities must sit-up and take notice. My reckoning is that sixty per cent or more games are being decided by the toss when two teams of nearly equal strength contest each other.
On paper the South Africans did not seem to have the power to challenge the Indians. They had no player even close to international standards when it came to spin bowling. Succeeding without spin in any form of cricket, in India, is a near impossibility.

Just as when the Sri Lankans who played the pitches were not big turners, the top surface did not break up and batsmen did not have to be wary of facing the spinners most of the time. Maybe those were the instructions dished out to the groundsmen – make pitches that last the distance. It is a move in the right direction.

South Africa’s strengths are their top order batsmen and the fast medium pace bowlers. They had to come good in those two departments and field exceptionally well to succeed in Indian conditions.

Fresh from their success at home against the New Zealanders Smith’s team were a confident outfit. They were minus two certainties, with Herschelle Gibbs and Niky Boje opting out of the tour. At most times their batting clicked. On the two occasions they batted first, they did not succumb without a fight.

Their best effort came in Kolkota. Perhaps they got most support in that venue too! The home town of the discarded Sourav Gangully, did not prove to be a happy hunting venue for the home team.On that day the South African Captain Graeme Smith dominated totally. India’s total to 188 was made to look meager as Smith and Hall shared an undefeated opening stand and gave the visitors a ten wicket win and a lead in the series.

They also won comfortably with 14.1 overs to spare. Smith’s effort was perhaps the best batting performance in the series. It took the wind out of the Indian bowlers completely. In the final game India batting second bounced back. The seam bowlers of both teams bowled well when they had conditions in their favour. They capitalized when it mattered. Both teams displayed improved playing strength and reserve strength too.

For South Africa to draw the series two games each was creditable. They must be pleased with that result. The momentum gained by the Indians was checked. That is what cricket at the highest level is all about. The South Africans tour Australia next. They play three test matches and the triangular series against Sri Lanka. To raise the bar is a must for them to succeed “down under”.

The Sri Lankans who hit rock bottom have had some time to recover. They too have to raise the bar to push the in form Indians on home conditions. They must put the recent past behind and start afresh believing in their ability.


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