Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
In a crucial game which could have well ended up being the decider (if India won), South Africa played wonderful cricket to beat India by 2 wickets with an over to spare.
Hanse Cronje won the toss on a cool morning and probably to change the approach of his team, elected to field first. Batting first in the first two games had proved unsuccessful.
From the outset, the pitch proved to be two paced and the Indian captain Ganguly soon realised that it was dangerous to just hang around and not try to attack, since a good ball could always come along on a pitch like this.
He attacked and how. Brilliant shots through the off side, his favourite side without a doubt, and left Sachin Tendulkar at the other end looking like a mere mortal, for a change! The fifty of the partnership was raised by the 9th over and when Pollock dismissed Sachin for 12, Ganguly was 44 and the score 61!
Ganguly continued to attack and was soon past his fifty and reached 56 in only 54 balls when he was cruelly declared caught behind when infact the ball had only brushed his thigh. It was indeed a blow since the Indian run-rate slumped after that.
Rahul Dravid was unable to pierce the field and his method of blocking the ball with soft hands close to the wickets to... pinch quick singles just didn't work. Soon Azhar departed playing a poor shot away from his body to be caught behind.
Jadeja and Dravid added 62 in 20 overs, which just wasn't good enough. At the total of 147 in 38 overs, Jadeja left and only a fine hand of 23 from Joshi and a good recovery from Dravid who reached 73 helped India add 100 runs more to reach 248 in 50 overs. In hindsight, Dravid's innings was a good one as he kept one end going allowing the big hitters to play their natural game.
The South African chase began well with Gibbs and Kirsten looking in fine touch. However Kumble removed Gibbs in his first over and the pinch hitter Boje didn't score too much either.
At 63 for 2 and then 91 for 3 in 18 overs, it was anybody's game but a fabulous hand from skipper Hanse Cronje who smashed 66 in only 71 balls coupled with Kirsten's 93 in 111 balls brought SA close to the target before Tendulkar the bowler took charge.
He dismissed Kirsten for 93, Cronje for 66 and Klusener for just 6, while Kumble got Benkenstein for zero to have SA reeling at 219 for 7 , needing 30 runs in 34 balls- anybody's game.
But for India the main bowlers had finished their spells by then and Dravid had to fill in. He got rid of Pollock but at that stage only 5 runs were required, and Boucher, who has the happy knack of spoiling India's chances of victory (he did so in the first test at Mumbai as well, smashed a huge six over deep mid-wicket to finish off the game.
All in all a most enthralling game, a game which India lost by not scoring enough runs in the middle overs after such a wonderful start from skipper Ganguly.
The Man of the Match was SA skipper Hanse for a fine 66 under pressure and fine captaincy as well.
India: 248 for 8 IN 50 overs
Dravid 73, Ganguly 56.
South Africa: 251 for 8 in 48 overs
Kirsten 93, Cronje 66.
Tendulkar 4 for 56.
South Africa won the ORD match of the 5 match series BNY 2 wickets.
India now leads 2-1 in the series with 2 games to go on Friday and Sunday. Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAE
March 15, 2000
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.