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Kanpur, Nov. 22 (NNN): Openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir put on the highest ever opening partnership for India against South Africa on day three of the first Test in Kanpur on Monday.
Sehwag and Gambhir were both unbeaten on 85 as India moved to 185-0 in reply to the tourists' score of 510-9.Both men were given a life by debutant wicket-keeper ThamiTsolekile.

The 24-year-old failed to lay a glove on a stumping chance offeredby Sehwag on 29 and then immediately missed a chance to catch Gambhir.

The start of play was delayed until after lunch because of dense fogat the Green Park stadium.The visitors resumed on 459-7 and went for quick runs, losing Tsolekile to Anil Kumble for nine and Robin Peterson, who was bowled by Harbhajan Singh after smashing 34 from just 24 balls.

Shaun Pollock finished unbeaten on 44.The wicket continued to resemble a virtual featherbed as Sehwag andGambhir built a confident foundation.

Both men had their let-offs just before tea.Peterson was particularly unlucky as he had caused Sehwag plenty ofproblems and the batsman would have been stumped by yards ifTsolekile had accepted the chance.

Gambhir's edge, down the leg-side off Andrew Hall, represented atougher opportunity for the wicket-keeper.In truth, he should have been caught when just five, substituteJustin Ontong spilling a diving catch at gully off Makhaya Ntini.

After tea, Gambhir launched a big six off Peterson over mid-wicket,adding some sweet leg-side flicks and one memorable cover-drive.

Sehwag went to his fifty with a perfectly-executed sweep shot offPeterson and drove Pollock for three off-side boundaries.Hall had a couple of close shouts for lbw while premier seamersPollock and Ntini were not at their best.

At close, Sehwag and Gambhir were both unbeaten on 85.The two Delhi batsmen not only recorded the highest-ever opening partnership against South Africa but also the highest opening partnership at the Green Park on a highly entertaining day, which saw play start two hours late because of a dense fog.

* Post-lunch session

The South Africans came out and had a go from the very first ball. It was about time they batted like that. If they were looking to win the match then they needed to put the Indians in as soon as possible.

Anil Kumble and Murali Karthik opened the attack for India.The leg-spinner foxed Thami Tsolekile and trapped him leg-before wicket with a quickish googly to claim his sixth wicket of the innings. (467 for 8)

But Robin Peterson, the new batsman, added to India's frustration by slamming 34 off just 24 balls, including three fours and a six that also brought up South Africa's 500 off Harbhajan Singh.The right-hander was clean bowled by Harbhajan Singh while trying another huge hit.

South Africa skipper Graeme Smith had had enough and immediately declared the innings on 510 for 9. Shaun Pollock was unbeaten on 44.The Indians need to score 311 to avoid the follow-on.Indian innings (22 over, 80 runs, no wicket)The pitch was slow and stroke-making would not be easy.

The South Africans had taken their time at the wicket and compiled a huge total. But try explaining that to Sehwag and Gambhir.

The Indian openers started sedately but then Sehwag got into his stride. Gambhir looked a bit shaky to start with and was dropped by substitute fielder

Justin Ontong at point on 5. Ontong was on the field for Boeta Dippenaar, who was hit on the head by the ball as the South Africans were warming up.The 50 partnership came up in the 15th over. It was the first time in 11 innings that the Indian openers had put on 50-plus for India.

Spin was introduced into the 16th over. Peterson got through one over without incident but then, with the Indian total on 63, South Africa's debutant wicketkeeper Tsolekeli missed an opportunity to stump Sehwag on 29. The ball pitched outside the leg-stump went straight on with the arm.Sehwag had reached 29 in the 14th over; Gambhir was on 18.

When tea was called at the end of the 22nd over, Gambhir had reached 39 (62 deliveries) and Sehwag was on 34 (72).It is not very often that we see someone outscoring Sehwag but the left-hander had done just that and had employed proper cricketing strokes to get those runs.

* Post-tea session (20 overs, 105 runs, no wicket).

One run came off Pollock's first over after tea. That proved to be the only respite the South Africans got for a long time in the final session of the day.

In the eight overs that followed, 61 runs were scored as Sehwag and Gambhir went after the bowlers with a vengeance.The South African batsmen had struggled with the slow pace of the wicket but the Indian openers were in no trouble at all and time and again planted their front foot down the crease and hit through the line of the ball.

Both the batsmen had got lives in the previous session and it only served to make them even more aggressive. Sehwag was particularly severe on anything outside the off-stump. The wagon wheel shows that he scored 71 of his 85 runs on the off-side. Only 14 runs were scored on the on-side; it not only explains how Sehwag batted, but it also how the South Africans bowled.

Gambhir, however, reached his fifty before Sehwag with a huge six off Peterson over mid-wicket. Gambhir hammered the left-arm orthodox spinner to the tune of 24 runs from 18 balls.Sehwag reached his eighth fifty in Test cricket to add to his seven centuries soon after.

Peterson, Hall all suffered as the Indians launched a blitzkrieg that hardly seemed a possibility looking at the way the South Africans had batted on the first two days.After 33 overs, India had reached 154.

A run-rate of 4.66 is acceptable in ODIs and this is a Test. One could feel the perceptible shift in momentum; the runs came at a really quick rate.For 11 overs, Smith allowed play to progress in this manner.

Hoping that the batsmen would get over-aggressive and a wicket would fall. But the openers held firm.The bowlers could never get their act together. Smith seemed uninvolved and before one realised, India had reached 174 and the South African total of 510 suddenly didn't look all that big.

At this stage, with the total on 174, light was offered, but batsmen preferred to carry on. And rightly so, with the visitors on the ropes.But 11 runs later, the light became too bad to continue and the umpires called play off. India still trail South Africa by 325 runs with 10 wickets remaining in their first innings.

Sehwag and Gambhir are both on 85 and looking good for plenty more.The South Africans will no doubt go back to the dressing room and try to find a way to get a wicket.

For India, it is important that the rest of the batsmen follow the lead of the openers and play in an aggressive manner as well.If Sehwag and Gambhir continue in the same vein for another session on Day 4, we still might see a result in India's favour.

*Brief Scores:

= South Africa 510-9 declared. = India 185-0

*The Two Teams:

India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Vangipurappu Laxman, Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan.

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Jacques Rudolph, BoetaDippenaar, Jacques Kallis, Zander de Bruyn, Thami Tsolekile (wicket-keeper), Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini,Andrew Hall, Robin Peterson, Martin van Jaarsveld.

* Umpires: D J Harper and S J A Taufel.


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