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Sachin, Bhajji close up gap with SA

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Published: Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 19:10 [IST]
 
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Sachin, Bhajji close up gap with SA

A supremely-well settled Sachin Tendulkar and a stubborn Harbhajan Singh closed up the deficit with South Africa's first innings total by putting on a gutsy, unbeaten 69 runs for the 7th wicket to take India into tea at 316/6. The revival came after India suffered a couple of blows immediately after lunch.

The scales tilted a fair bit in South Africa's favour after the break, with Proteas express bowler Dale Steyn wreaking havoc with the new ball. He penetrated the defences of Cheteshwar Pujara to trap him plumb in front with a peach of an outswinger. The batsman's brief innings of 2 was over and captain M S Dhoni had to replace him at the crease.

In the next over, Tendulkar watchfully played four balls before throwing the kitchen sink at a bouncer from Morne Morkel. The streaky shot went way over the wicketkeeper and slips for a top-edged six down to fine leg. Tendulkar had reached another landmark - his 51st Test after having notched up his 50th earlier in the tour. This innings came off 213 balls and was studded with 12 fours and a six. In the very next ball, he scorched a square drive for four to celebrate.

But Dhoni was apparently not in the right frame of mind for the situation and edged the perfect outswinger from Steyn straight into the hands of third slip. The captain hardly played an innings befitting his stature and was on his way for a duck as Harbhajan Singh walked confidently to the crease.

In the 87th over, Bhajji and Tendulkar launched a counter-offensive, each knocking a boundary off Morkel. There was more drama in the following over, when Steyn joined in late on an appeal for caught behind from Tendulkar, prompting the umpire to keep the dreaded finger down. India had in the meantime, brought the deficit down to nearly 100 with the score at 259/6 in 89 overs.

In the 90th over, the batting duo went after paceman Lonwabo Tsotobe with Tendulkar unfurling an upper-cut to third man and then Harbhajan pulling a short ball for a square leg six. Following a few quiet overs, Sachin played a beautiful straight drive off Morkel for another boundary taking his score to 118 and the team total to 278/6.

In the 102nd over, Tendulkar took a single off Tsotsobe to bring up India's 300, in the process reducing the deficit to just 62. At the other end, Bhajji was counter-attacking aggressively. In the 103rd over, he smacked Steyn fr a four and then in the 105th, carted him for a six. With that shot, the off-spinning allrounder had brought up his 2,000th runs in Test cricket. India went into tea at 316/6, trailing South Africa by just 46 runs.

The day began with a big scare of Tendulkar who had resumed on an overnight score of 49. Wicketkeeper Mark Bouncher was convinced that Tendulkar had edged a Dale Steyn delivery, but neither the bowler, who went up with the appeal late, nor the umpire heard the knick. Tendulkar came back later in the over, to smack Steyn for a four through the covers. A couple of overs later, Gautam Gambhir, who was picking up his innings at 65, struck Morkel for a boundary to take India past the 150-run mark.

Tendulkar and Gambhir who had grown very accustomed to conditions from their long innings the previous day, took a four each in the next two overs. Then in the 61st over, Tendulkar came down heavily on Lonwabo Tsotsobe, getting him away for two consecutive fours - one, to midwicket and the other, to backward point. Gambhir followed up with a boundary each of Morkel, Tsotsobe and the off-spinner Paul Harris, in the next three overs.

In the 69th over, Gambhir and Tendulkar picked Tsotsobe for a single each tro take India to 200. Gambhir was unbeaten on 90 and Tendulkar was close behind, on 78. But just a couple of overs later, Gambhir's charge towards his maiden century in South Africa was cut short at 93 when Harris had him caught behind. India wre still in a strong position at 204/3.

Tendulkar then stepped on the gas, dispatching Tsotsobe for two boundaries in the 75th over, one through gully and one past second slip. Then after the Little Master struck one more four off Harris, new batsman VVS Laxman got into the act, smashing Alviro Petersen and Harris for a four each. But in the 80th over, with the score at 235/3, Laxman was run-out as Harris got a finger off a shot from Tendulkar which knock over the non-striker's stumps, where Laxman was just out of his crease.

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