Kanpur, Nov. 23 (NNN): The first Test at the Green Park stadium in Kanpur was heading inexorably for a draw with India 401-4 in reply to South Africa's 510-9 declared after four days of cricket on Tuesday.
The only failure in the Indian innings came from Sachin Tendulkar, bowled off his pads for just three.
Andrew Hall followed up his knock of 163 with two wickets.
The home side resumed on 185-0 after an hour's delay caused by fog, with both batsmen on 85 not out and looking to progress to three figures. They took the total to 218 before Shaun Pollock induced an edge from Gambhir, who departed having struck a six and 11 boundaries in his 151-ball knock.
It was the second highest opening stand in a Test for India, beaten only by the 413 by Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad against New Zealand in 1955-56.
Sehwag was not to be denied his hundred, however, and after India had gone in to lunch on 235-1 he continued to accelerate following the resumption.
It was a huge relief to the tourists when Hall found enough movement to trap him in front.
And the all-rounder, who made a marathon 163 earlier in the game, then dashed the crowd's hopes of seeing Tendulkar make a big score with another excellent delivery which bowled him off his pads.
Tendulkar's downfall saw skipper Ganguly join Dravid in the middle and they cautiously accumulated runs.
Finally, shortly before stumps, Ganguly top-edged a pull shot off debutant medium-pacer Zander de Bruyn to give Robin Peterson a simple catch at fine leg.
Ganguly was out for 57 with Dravid still there on 52 made off 169 deliveries.
Sehwag, the dashing opener not only notched his eighth Test century -- his third this year in nine Tests -- but also went past 1000 runs in 2004.
However, South Africa fought back in the post-lunch session as Andrew Hall, who scored a century in the first innings, claimed the key wickets of Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar (3).
At close, vice-captain Rahul Dravid was batting on 52 along with V V S Laxman, who was unbeaten on 4.
India still trail South Africa by 109 runs. With the threat of fog delaying the start of play on Wednesday, day 5, the match appears heading for a tame draw.
Morning session (20 overs, 50 runs, 1 wicket)
The start of play was delayed by 30 minutes once again due to fog. South Africa's primary concern on day four was getting a wicket and breaking the opening partnership that was already worth 185 runs. Their secondary concern was keeping the run-rate below four.
Since the start of the Indian innings both Gambhir and Sehwag attacked with aplomb. With the pitch as dead as it is, the going is expected to get worse for the visitors.
The pair quickly brought up the 200 of the Indian innings. It was only the sixth opening double century partnership since India started playing cricket.
The first 50 runs of the innings were scored off 91 balls. But the successive fifties came off 65 balls, 40 balls and 73 balls respectively. Sehwag soon reached his eighth ton in Test cricket, off 162 balls, including 17 boundaries.
Incidentally, each of those hundreds were scored in the first innings. But it was around this time that the South African bowlers, Shaun Pollock and Mahkaya Ntini, started to get reverse swing.
For the first time in the match the bowlers had their say in the proceedings. Pollock was rewarded for a brilliant spell in the morning session. The former South Africa skipper stuck to a line outside the off-stump and it got him Gambhir's wicket after the Indian opener had scored 96.
While Sehwag came out playing shots, Gambhir looked content to take the single and allow his partner the strike. Nerves also came into play as he neared his maiden ton in Test cricket.
Pollock kept the ball outside the off-stump and shifted the line closer to the stumps until Gambhir was forced to play at it. The left-hander succumbed to temptation and gave wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile his first catch in Test cricket. (218 for 1)
It was the second-highest opening partnership ever for India. The highest still remains the epic 413-run partnership between Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy, against New Zealand in Chennai during the 1955-56 series.
It was also Pollock's 350th wicket in Test cricket. The all-rounder is also just 24 runs away from aggregating 3000 runs. He is poised to become just the fifth player in the history of the game to achieve the double of 350 wickets and 3000 runs.
Gambhir's dismissal also heralded a period of calm. Rahul Dravid, known to take his time getting set, did exactly that. Sehwag was kept away from the strike. For 86 deliveries, the Indians, who had struck 28 boundaries and a solitary six in the innings up to this point, failed to find the boundary.
Pollock was very impressive this morning and had figures of 8-4-13-1. Ntini supported him well. Graeme Smith kept the duo on for 15 overs before making a double change and thrusting Andrew Hall and Robin Peterson into the attack.
Five overs later, the umpires called lunch. India had scored 235 for the loss of Gambhir's wicket. Sehwag, 108, and Dravid, 11, were at the crease.
In the 20-over session, India scored 50 runs for the loss of one wicket. Post-lunch session (101 runs, 34 overs, 2 wickets) Sehwag came out swinging after lunch.
The first ball after the break from Hall was dispatched for four over mid-off. For 46 balls before this, he was unable to find the boundary. But now with Pollock and Ntini out of attack, the right-hander decided to raise the tempo again.
Sehwag played out the rest of the over calmly before Dravid played out a maiden from De Bruyn. But that was just a precursor to the mayhem that followed.
The third over after lunch saw a good length delivery on the middle and leg, and Sehwag planted his foot outside the leg-stump and swung hard to send the ball soaring over the mid-wicket fence. The wicketkeeper dropped a catch off the very next ball; Sehwag was on 120, but it really didn't matter as the umpire called no-ball.
Sehwag made Hall pay for his indiscretion and slammed him for two more fours in the over to bring the total runs slammed in the over to 18 runs.
De Bruyn, bowling only his second over of the match, was in for similar treatment next. At the end of the over, he had been slammed for 14 runs. 32 runs were scored off the last two overs and, yes, this is Test cricket.
In the first session, Sehwag had scored 23 off 53 balls; in this session he had already scored 37 off 19 and, in the process, scored his 1000th run in 2004. But Sehwag wasn't finished; at least not yet.
Dippenaar, who was captaining the side in the absence of Smith, got Peterson back into the attack. The left-arm orthodox spinner had maintained a line way outside the leg-stump whenever he bowled and kept the batsmen relatively restrained. But Sehwag was ready for him.
He hit a reverse sweep off the first ball but found the fielder at short third man. The next ball, the right-hander danced down the track and slammed the delivery straight back over the bowler's head for a six. The shot also brought up Sehwag's 150. The next ball, he was down the wicket once again and played an inside-out cover drive.
The right-hander's approach forced Peterson to try and pitch the ball outside the off-stump, but Sehwag was waiting and hit it through cover for another four. 15 runs from the over and Sehwag had kept the strike.
This was exciting, exhilarating cricket; Sehwag was at his intimidating best. But next ball, he was trapped leg-before the wicket. Just like that. His dismissal, like his batting, cannot be predicted. A short of a good length delivery from Hall pitched outside the off-stump and swung into Sehwag, who reacted late and was hit on the pad in line with the middle and leg stump. Umpire Simon Taufel raised the finger immediately (294 for 2).
The partnership for the second wicket was worth 76 and Dravid's contribution was just 12. Sehwag scored 164 off 228 balls, with 24 boundaries and two sixes. Of those 164, 119 had come on the off-side.
Hall had done the trick. The medium pacer struck another blow after just four runs were added to the total when he clean bowled Sachin Tendulkar (3) with another in-swinging delivery (298 for 3).
The pitch that had looked like a batting paradise a few overs back now looked liked finally coming into play. After Sehwag's dismissal only nine runs came in the next eight overs. It tells you something about the way Sehwag bats and his ability to make bowlers change their line and length while he is at the wicket.
Hall, for instance, was afraid to pitch the ball up while Sehwag was batting, because he knew that the right-hander would look to attack. A delivery of exactly that nature, pitched up and swinging, got Tendulkar's wicket.
Sourav Ganguly, the next man in, and Dravid struggled to get the ball away in the next 30 minutes as India's run-rate rapidly dropped to 3.5. 59 runs were scored in the first eight overs of the session, while Sehwag was going berserk. 30 runs came in 21 overs since his dismissal.
In the next over, Martin van Jaarsveld dropped Ganguly on 12 at mid-off. The remaining overs were quietly played out as India reached 336 for 3 after 96 overs.
India trail by 173 runs with seven wickets remaining in the first innings.
Post-tea session (18 overs, 65 runs, 1 wicket)
The new ball was taken immediately after tea. 54 runs were scored in the 12 overs after the break as the Indians again started to play strokes. Sourav Ganguly, in particular, looked a lot more confident and played some good strokes through the off-side to reach his half-century. His fifty came off 99 balls, including seven boundaries.
The new ball was in complete contrast to the old ball, which had helped the bowlers and reverse swung a lot. Shortly after, Ganguly (57) must have cursing himself for getting out. De Bruyn was back in the attack and the India skipper pulled a short delivery straight to Peterson at fine leg to give the medium-pacer his first wicket in Test cricket. (394 for 4)
The partnership for the fourth wicket was worth 96 runs, but it had come at a slow pace. The momentum Sehwag had given the innings had now all but vanished. It is difficult, if not impossible, for any other batsman to play like Sehwag, but Dravid and Ganguly could have at least tried.
Dravid reached his fifty a few balls later. It took him 163 balls to reach the landmark. V V S Laxman, the new batsman in, scored four before the umpires called off play due to bad light.
India were 401 for 4 after 114 overs. The session lasted only 18 overs and India scored 65 runs in it.
=South Africa 1st innings: 510 for 9 declared. = India 1st innings: 401 for four.
* 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, Boeta Dippenaar, 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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