x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Another pair's turn to torment Proteas

Dhoni and Laxman join Sehwag and Tendulkar with a century each leaving the visitors in arrears of 347 but Wessels confident of his team salvaging a draw.

VVS Laxman acknowledges the Eden Gardens ground after reaching his century. Dhoni, right, reached his too soon after.
VVS Laxman acknowledges the Eden Gardens ground after reaching his century. Dhoni, right, reached his too soon after.

Kepler Wessels, back in his playing days, was one of the most solid batsmen in the world, difficult to dislodge even on the most testing surfaces. Now the South Africa batting consultant, Wessels is expecting a similarly gritty performance from his team as they battle to save the second Test in Kolkata. After winning the first Test by an innings, South Africa are facing the prospect of being on the receiving end of a similar ignominy after conceding a mammoth 347-run lead following another run spree in the field as VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni struck a century apiece before India declared on 643 for six. The Proteas, who were six without loss in their second innings when bad light stopped play, have to bat for two days now if they are to return home with their first Test series win in India and the No 1 Test ranking in the world.

They have done it before, at Lord's in 2008 when - after following-on 346 runs behind - Graeme Smith, Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla scored centuries to keep England on the field for 167 overs and escape with a draw. Wessels is confident his batsmen can do the job again, as long as they banish thoughts of mere survival. "South Africa batsmen have had many similar challenges over the last two years and come through those quite well," he said. "This will be a difficult one, but that's what experienced top international batsmen are for. They've coped with it well in the past and will hopefully do so again. "It's a pretty good pitch. I think you can still bat on it for extended periods of time. Clearly, we're going to be under more pressure than India were, so it'll be more difficult.

"We're in a position where we have to save the game to win the series. There's two days of tough Test cricket ahead and we'll fight as hard as we can. We can't just play the survival game. We've still got to look to score runs and play a normal game - form partnerships and bat for long periods." Dropped catches hurt South Africa yesterday, with Jacques Kallis and Smith among the culprits, and it made their bowling task more difficult. "We wanted to bowl well, get some wickets and finish India off," Wessels said. "Perhaps even if they had a lead of a 100 or so, we'd have been happy with that. But they played well, and we just couldn't get the breakthroughs." Laxman continued his love affair with Eden Gardens, scripting an elegant, unbeaten 143 - his fourth century at the ground in nine Tests. Dhoni hit blustery 132 not out to take India's century count for the innings to four. Together they added 259 runs, an India record for the seventh wicket in Test cricket, to virtually bat South Africa out of the game. For Laxman, the century was particularly memorable as it came on his sixth wedding anniversary and he dedicated the knock to his wife and children, who made a surprise visit to Kolkata. "Today is my marriage anniversary and it is great that my wife and kids gave me a surprise by coming to Kolkata," he said after his 15th Test hundred. "So, definitely I would like to dedicate this to my wife because she has been a pillar of strength to me and my family. It is tough being the wife of a cricketer because we are always on the road." arizvi@thenational.ae

South Africa 296 India (overnight 342-5): VVS Laxman not out 143 Amit Mishra c Kallis b Morkel 28 Mahendra Singh Dhoni not out 132 Extras: (6b, 9lb, 13w, 8nb) 36 Total: (for six wickets, 153 overs) 643 Fall of wickets: 73-1, 82-2, 331-3, 335-4, 336-5, 384-6. Bowling: Dale Steyn 30-5-115-1 (1nb, 1w) Morne Morkel 26-3-115-2 (7nb) Wayne Parnell 20-1-103-0 Jacques Kallis 12-1-40-0 Paul Harris 50-5-182-1 (12w) JP Duminy 15-0-73-1. South Africa (second innings): Graeme Smith not out 5 Alviro Petersen not out 1 Total: (for no loss, 0.5 overs) 6 Bowling: Zaheer Khan 0.5-0-6-0.