Five consecutive defeats and that too by big margins had left the Indian supporters not just disappointed but also disillusioned. India's performances in the one-dayers in Australia, where they won only one of their eight games, were also not of the kind that would give the die-hard supporters too much hope against the South Africans who are a top class limited overs team.
India's bowling woes continued, as both Agarkar and Kumaran were mauled by openers Kirsten and Gibbs. Not that the other bowlers were spared, and with the outfield being lightning fast and the Indian fielders being ponderously slow with one or two exceptions, the score moved along quite briskly.
The heat was taking its toll on the South African batsmen but their determination not to give up that magnificent start was very clear as they ran sharp singles and converted ones into twos with some hard running.
Team spirit was carrying on when the body was telling you 'enough' and the brain not quite alert enough to argue. Both Kirsten and Gibbs kept on taking breaks, leaning on their bats, occasionally on their haunches; but most importantly, they kept going because that was what the team needed.
Both got well-deserved hundreds, with Gibbs in particular being pretty fortunate that Samir Dighe gave him not one but three chances to stay on at the crease, by muffing stumping opportunities.
Ganguly showed he was prepared to experiment by bringing on Rahul Dravid to purvey his off-spin and he picked two out of the three wickets that fell in the innings. Ganguly also gave Tendulkar a long spell, seeing the way he was turning the ball. Despite the pitch affecting the turn of the ball, it was a superb wicket to bat on as the ball kept coming nicely on to the bat and strokemaking was made easy.
The heat may have slowed down the South Africans, for they ended up with perhaps 20 runs less than what looked possible when the openers put on that massive double century partnership. Still, 301 is a big total by any standards and the way the Indian batting collapsed in the Tests did make it look an insurmountable target.
The way Ganguly began, it looked as if he wanted to get the runs on his own. There were the usual silken drives on the off-side, but this time, he showed that he can take boundaries off his pads too.
Without Donald, this South African attack looks a lot less hostile. In any case, in one-day cricket there are no bouncers to go past the nose, so a lot of pussycats in Tests turn into tigers in this form of cricket.
Azhar's century in his previous innings should have seen him promoted to the one-down position, but he was sent in after Sunil Joshi, whose pinch-hitting abilities have been over-estimated by the think tank of the team. Azhar brought all his experience into play, and Jadeja, after a watchful beginning, played a glorious innings full of innovative shots.
Robin Singh, as always, was willing to run hard and take risks. After the quick dismissals of Jadeja and Dighe, he kept his cool to ensure India earned a close but thrilling victory.
One would like to see if Kallis is pulled up by the match referee for showing displeasure over his ball being declared a wide, and then having a prolonged argument with the umpire at the end of the over. If he is not, then India are entitled to believe that it is only their players that get penalised, and the whole concept of match referees should be up for a review, for, if third umpires were brought in to remove the element of bias, the match referees also ought to be neutral. However, as far as India is concerned, the ICC Code of Conduct has been interpreted differently for different teams by the match referees.
Professional Management Group