It's early days in the third and deciding Test between South Africa and India, at Cape Town and one can safely assume that the match is evenly poised at the moment. But in the latter part of Day 1, India allowed South Africa to wrest back the advantage that the tourists had gained.
Indeed, after finding themselves in a hole at 164/4, it took the deft and calculated stroke play of Jacques Kallis to help his side crawl back into the match and go into Day 2 in a perceivably strong position at 232/4. Once again, Kalis proved exactly why is is one of the best batsman in the world. He alone stands as a towering obstacle for India to regain control of the match.
After all, at an overnight score of 81, he is on the threshold of another century and one has seen the heights he can scale once he gets going. He was virtually invincible in the first Test, at Centurion, cutting, driving and pulling with sustained venom. He was toying with everything Sreesanth, Ishant and Jaidev Unadkat could hurl at him and countered their swing and pace with pointed disdain.
In the second encounter between thw two sides, at Durban, it took an extraordinary bit of fielding of Ishant to run him out at the non-striker's end and an even more outrageous bouncer from Sreesanth to cut short his brief second innings.
But the milieu has changed, the pitch is vastly different. Indeed, the Sahara Stadium strip doesn't respond much to the bowlers' attempts at bouncing the ball or causing lateral movement. So the Indian pace trio will do well to just stick to the fundamentals of sound seaming. They should aim at a stiff off-stump line and avoid swaying onto Kallis pads.
A bit of good news for India is that the new balls is due early on Day 2. So the attack will have to make the most of the shine by keeping that seam as upright as possible.
Sreesanth might just prove to be Kallis' nemesis in this encounter because of his ability, as demonstrated yesterday, to get to the ball to swing very late. His contest against Kallis will indeed be a test of character, because if Sree pitches the ball just short of a length and often enough, he might induce Kallis to hazard a drive and consequently edge it through to the keeper.
If Kallis proves just too sturdy to unsettle, then the Indian attack would do well to shift focus to shooting out the batsmen at the other end. After all, the South African tail is quite long and Mark Boucher, who is the last recognised batsman, hasn't posed much of a threat
in this series.
Kallis' present partner, Ashwell Prince, too looks vulnerable. He has a tendency to play away from his body every now and again, and a couple of his extravagant edges narrowly evaded slip fielders on the first day.
The match is set up for an enthralling contest. Will Kallis and Prince continue to dominate or will the Indian bowlers get on top of them early enough and stem the run-flow? Which way will the scales tilt today? The answer is set to unfold at 1400 hrs IST.