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Famed Indian Batting Line Up Collapses, India 136/9 On Day 1

Centurion, Dec 16: India's vulnerability to short pitched bowling was exposed as South Africa speedsters Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel exploited seaming conditions to leavethe visitors in tatters on a rain-hit opening day of the
PTI December 16, 2010 22:44 IST
Centurion, Dec 16: India's vulnerability to short pitched bowling was exposed as South Africa speedsters Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel exploited seaming conditions to leave
the visitors in tatters on a rain-hit opening day of the first cricket Test here today.

Put into bat after a four-hour rain delay, India were left gasping at a precarious 136 for nine at stumps with Steyn (3/43) and Morkel (4/20) ripping through their famed batting line-up.

Steyn and Morkel hurled down a barrage of bouncers, extracting pace and movement on a Supersport Park pitch which appeared to have lots of moisture due to overnight and early morning rain, and also a tinge of green.

At stumps after 38.1 overs' play, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was batting on 33 from 47 balls while debutant Jaidev Unadkat was giving him company on one on an eventful first day's play.

Sachin Tendulkar, who was just one short of his 50th Test ton, top-scored with a sparkling 34-ball 36 which included eight fours.

He was batting without any apparent trouble before being out soon after delayed tea break as the first day's play was reduced to a two-session affair following four and half hour delayed start.

Rahul Dravid was the only other specialist batsman who scored in double digits with a 42-ball 14 with the help of two fours. Gautam Gambhir struggled throughout his 43-ball five while his opening partner Virender Sehwag was out for a duck.

VVS Laxman scored just seven from 20 balls while Suresh Raina could contribute just one run after facing three balls as the high-profile series between the world's top-ranked teams began with a lop-sided contest on the opening day.

India were saved from complete disaster with a 39-run partnership from 45 balls between Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh (25-ball 27) for the seventh wicket.

Harbhajan, who hit back-to-back centuries recently, was looking to play another crucial knock down the order whacking a six and a four off paceman Lonwabo Tsotsobe – which prompted a brief exchange of words between the two – before he was out in a bizzare way.

The Indian off-spinner was slow to turn for the second run after Dhoni pushed through cover but he had almost made it before his bat fell from his hand just inches near the crease and Boucher underarmed the throw onto the stumps.

The much talked about duel between Sehwag and Steyn lasted just three balls with the Indian opener out for a three-ball duck. Sehwag quietly let go the last two balls of Steyn's opening over but could not resist the temptation to whack a length ball in the first delivery of the fast bowler's second over and South Africa's third.

Sehwag opened his bat without completely reaching to the pitch of the ball wide outside the off and the ball went up the air to Hashim Amla at third man and India were one for one.

Morkel, who extracted fiery pace and bounce throughout the session, kept the pressure on Gautam Gambhir with short pitch stuff but Dravid eased off a bit with two boundaries off
Steyn in the fifth over.

Morkel finally got his man in Gambhir who ended his laboured innings for a 43-ball five, edging a full length delivery. Gambhir, who at one time could not score a single run for 20 balls, drove without much footwork to find the outside edge land to Ryan Harris' hands at first slip an hour into the day's play.

Dravid fell soon after Gambhir's departure in Morkel's next over, plumbed LBW to a ball which jagged in after landing on and around off stump and also a tad low than expected. When Dravid departed India were in deep trouble at 27 for three.

Before falling for 14, Dravid overtook former West Indian captain Brain Lara as the the third highest run-getter in the history of Test cricket -- behind Sachin Tendulkar (14,3666) and Ricky Ponting (12,332) -- when he reached 11.

Coming into the match needing 11 runs to surpass Lara's 11,953 in the all-time run-getter's list, Dravid reached the milestone with a double, clipping Dale Steyn off the back foot towards the square-leg region.

India resumed the second session at 55 for three but Steyn reduced the visitors to the brink with a burst of two wickets in two overs, including that of increasingly confident

Veteran Jacques Kallis, who started rolling his arms just before the delayed tea break, dismissed Raina for a three-ball one.

Tendulkar smote Steyn for two fours off Steyn in the first over after tea and it seemed for a while that India would start coming back into the match.

But Steyn had other ideas as he sent down a fast stuff which knocked off Laxman's middle stump like an arrow to end the Indian's innings of seven from 20 balls.

The next over, Kallis showed the depth of South Africa's pace battery removing Raina whose half-hearted shot went straight into the hands of third slip fielder AB de Villiers.

India's hopes of a respectable first innings total almost disappeared with Tendulkar found himself plumbed in front of wickets with a length delivery that straightened a bit and hit the pads as the Indian played across the line.

Dhoni and Harbhajan made a brief resistance before the former was out and tailender Ishant Sharma hung out to a Morkel delivery outside the off-stump to be out for a duck.

Sreesanth emulated his pace colleague Ishant by scoring a duck but debutant Unadkat, who got his first Test cap due to injury to Zaheer Khan, stitched a 20-run partnership for the unbroken last wicket with Dhoni from 21 balls. PTI