South Africa made short work of bowling out India, which they accomplished for the addition of 5 runs and within 6 overs on the final day of the 1st Test, at Centurion. Proteas fast bowler Dale Steyn began proceedings by finishing the 123rd over, incomplete from Day 4. Tendulkar was looking solid as usual, against the hostile bounce of Steyn and then Morne Morkel. But when Sreesanth came on strike, Morkel took full advantage of India's apparent Achilles' heel.
In the fifth ball of the 125th over, the paceman bowled a quick off-cutter which Sreesanth only managed to edge to second slip where A B de Villiers took a dolly. India were now closer to a crushing defeat at 456/9. Just two overs later, India's last man Jaidev Unadkat fended off a short one from Steyn to Ashwell Prince at gully. Unadkat was out for 1, India had been bowled out for 459 in their second innings, and the hosts South Africa had romped home by an innings and 25 runs. Jacques Kallis was rightly adjudged Man of the Match for his brilliant knock of 201 not out, studded with 15 fours and 5 sixes.
On the previous day South Africa had India on the ropes at 277/6, when captain M S Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar pulled out an extraordinary 172-run stand for the 7th wicket. While they were at the crease, it looked like the visitors might at least make up the deficit and force South Africa to bat again. But Dale Steyn cut short their plans when he had Dhoni caught behind, courtesy a splendid bouncer with the score at 449. Then the end came swiftly, with Harbhajan falling for 1 and today, Sreesanth and Unadkat departing meekly.
India now go 0-1 down in the three-match series with the second Test slated to take place at Durban and starting on Dec 26, Boxing Day. India will have to do their homework before that encounter, with the batsman continuing to acclimatise to the pace and bounce of South African wickets while the bowlers will have to grow some teeth and get their act together.
Hopefully, Zaheer Khan will recover from his groin injury and bolster up the pace attack. India has not had a successful start to its present tour, unlike the last time the side visited South Africa. In the 2006-07 series, India took the first Test by 123 runs before losing the next two. Can India pull off something extraordinary on Dec 26 to 30? The answer awaits at Durban.