Boucher saves the day for South Africa

Written by: Sunil Gavaskar
Published: Sunday, February 27, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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South Africa found their man of the moment in Mark Boucher. The wicket-keeper batsman came in to bat at a tough time when Kumble had got rid of the dangerous Klusener and India were beginning to believe they could win. Playing a flurry of sweep and pull shots for boundaries he took the game away so quickly from India that before Tendulkar could realise it, the Test was lost.

Before Boucher came to the crease, the South Africans were labouring along and were content to work the singles. This allowed Tendulkar to set attacking fields and with the ball turning and bouncing, the close in fielders were also kept interested.

Boucher's attacking batting suddenly made standing close to the wicket a dangerous way to earn a living and when fielders are looking to turn their backs rather than dive forward.

It was a hard fought win and South Africa showed great character by doing the hard work on an unfamiliar pitch. It is never easy to come from pitches where the ball comes on to the bat to play on pitches where the ball stops and turns and the adjustment does take time.

They have in Kirsten, a batsman who has loads of patience which is an absolute must on Indian pitches and who by being a left hander can negate to a great extent the threat that Kumble provides. Kirsten led the way by ensuring that there were no early losses and that start by the openers made South Africa's task easier.

Kallis' solid defence after the ignominious exit in the first innings also was a big factor for he kept his cool in trying circumstances and by the end of the innings, he was playing Kumble as well as anyone has in recent trips to India.

Having lost the cream of their batting to some unbelievably shoddy footwork, the Indians depended on Dravid to take them to a score they could defend, but South Africa's top class fielding meant that he was not able to run the singles to keep his score ticking.

It took some bold batting by Mongia to take India to the total they did. Ironically, Boucher did what Mongia had done earlier in the day to take South Africa to a victory.

Kumble bowled superbly but unfortunately he did not quite get the support from the inexperienced Kartik and with Srinath also being off-colour, 163 was not going to be enough. The leg spinner mixed his deliveries quite brilliantly and by varying his pace he was able to keep the batsmen on a tight leash.

Kartik playing his first Test also made the mistake like the South African left arm spinners by pitching the length required on good pitches instead of bowling further up that would commit the batsmen to the shots. By bowling short of a good length, the batsmen could change their shots and pulls played by Boucher were proof of that.

But he is young and the spirit he showed while batting shows that here is a youngster with spunk who should be persisted with and encouraged. India needs players like him for this Test showed that a team of two and half players were beaten by a team of seven players plus four committed ones.

Professional Management Group

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