Gritty Dravid steadies India in Joburg

Published: Friday, December 15, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg:Indian captain Rahul Dravid and master batsman Sachin Tendulkar staged a recovery after their team lost two early wickets on the first day of the first Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium.

Tendulkar was out for 44 shortly before tea was taken early on Friday because of an approaching thunderstorm. India were 101 for three at the break, with Dravid unbeaten on 30.

Dravid was particularly watchful, eking out his runs in 139 minutes off 73 balls. Tendulkar was also cautious but his innings was interspersed with some sparkling strokes, including a cover drive off Makhaya Ntini that raced to the boundary. He faced 89 balls and hit seven boundaries before edging an out-swinger from Jacques Kallis to second slip.

Dravid and Tendulkar came together after opening batsmen Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag fell within the space of six balls after a delayed start caused by damp patches on the pitch. They added 61 for the third wicket.

Jaffer was leg before wicket to Makhaya Ntini for nine when he padded up to a ball just outside his off stump which was slanting in.

Sehwag was caught behind off Shaun Pollock in the next over when he was squared up by a lifting delivery. The normally dashing Sehwag scored only four runs off 26 balls.

Dravid, recovered from a finger injury, took a painful blow in the ribs from Pollock before he had scored but batted with typical resolve on the ground where he made his maiden Test century ten seasons ago.

The morning's play was restricted to an hour. The start was delayed by 90 minutes because of damp patches, which the Gauteng Cricket Board said were caused by wet hessian placed on the pitch overnight because groundsman Chris Scott was concerned that the surface was too dry and that it might break up on the fourth and fifth days.

"After removing the covers this morning, there was a lot more moisture on the wicket than anticipated."

Despite the late start, the pitch looked good for batting on a hot, cloudless day and although there was grass cover it had a brown tinge.

Batting proved awkward, however, with South Africa's all-seam attack able to extract plenty of bounce from the surface. India limped to lunch at 19 for two.

Tendulkar eased the first ball after lunch from Pollock through the covers for four but progress remained slow as the batsmen waited for loose deliveries.

Kallis made a crucial breakthrough for South Africa with thunder rumbling overhead. As the storm moved nearer the umpires consulted and decided that tea should be taken early.

India opted to leave off-spinner Harbhajan Singh out of their final eleven, leaving leg-spinner Anil Kumble as the only specialist slow bowler.

Brief Scores:

India 101 for 3 ( Sachin Tendulkar 44, Rahul Dravid 30 n o; Pollock 1 for 12, Kallis 1 for 13, Ntini 1 for 32) Vs South Africa


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