Express Buzz ePaper
Also read the related stories
We have proved India being No.1 is no fluke: Harbhajan
Everyone was up for the fight: Harbhajan
I have been quite fortunate on a few occasions: Amla
KOLKATA: Harbhajan Singh said after his match-winning performance (eight wickets for 123 runs) in the second Test at Eden Gardens that India had proved it deserved to be the top-ranked team.
The series-equalling victory has ensured that M.S. Dhoni's side will not only retain the Test mace, which it received after defeating Sri Lanka last December, but will also receive US$175,000, which is presented to the side that reaches the April 1 cut-off date in top spot.
"There has been a lot of talk about us that it was a fluke to be the number one side," said Harbhajan. "It was not a fluke at all, we have worked really hard to reach the top and today we showed the world that we deserve to be number one. We have learnt that if we fight till the end we will do special things. Everyone was up for the fight."
Asked how he dealt with the criticism after the first Test, Harbhajan said: "The media creates sensations that Bhajji is not bowling well, that Bhajji is doing this, doing that. I have my own people who are always there for me.
"Anil Kumble will probably always be the one who will call me and tell me that there is nothing wrong with me. It is just that you guys [media] who create sensational stories and call Kumble to ask what is wrong with Harbhajan.
"He just told me, 'you have taken 300 plus wickets … you know what you can do. You just have to be confident and it is just a matter of time before you get wickets'. I would like to thank him for the advice, even on the field settings for particular batsmen like Jacques Kallis. Thank you, Anil bhai for helping me out."
Harbhajan said he enjoyed bowling at Eden Gardens. "Every player has his own special ground," he said. "Anil bhai always enjoyed bowling in Delhi and I have always enjoyed bowling at the Eden Gardens. Eden has always been special.
"I have not heard this kind of noise anywhere in India. In Test matches we don't get crowds, but Eden has probably the best ground as you get crowds for all five days. It does not matter whether India is batting or bowling."
Asked about Amla's heroic innings, Harbhajan said, "Most of the teams that come here don't know much about the spin, whether it is turning, bouncing or keeping low from the wicket. But he was very calm throughout his batting and that was probably the key. I think he was the best batsman in the South African batting line-up."
Amla was disarmingly modest about his exploits. He totalled 490 runs from three innings and spent 23 hours and 21 minutes at the crease. Only once during his three centuries was he dismissed.
"I have been quite fortunate on a few occasions," said Amla. "Every professional cricketer goes through certain tours and series where he excels. I have just been fortunate that this tour has been my opportunity. Things have gone for me on the field. I only look at it as good fortune."
South African captain Graeme Smith said it was a terrific series. "We dominated the first Test match. We had opportunities at tea here on the first day when were 200 for two," he said.
"We just let ourselves down in the last session and gave India the upper hand. In the sub-continent it is very difficult to play catch-up cricket. Once we gave them the upper hand, they really drove the bus through the door."
Also read the related stories
Harbhajan spins India to thrilling victory
S. Ram Mahesh
Amla's superhuman effort not enough to save South Africa
KOLKATA: There was grand drama at Eden Gardens on Thursday.
The second Test, which had shaped into a captivating contest thanks to a fine cricket wicket that didn't disintegrate and a weather-shortened fourth day, had a most remarkable final day. It developed bit by engaging bit towards a tense, grandstand finish.
Hashim Amla's magnificent defensive innings (123 not out), an effort spanning eight hours and nineteen minutes, resisted India's thrust towards a series-levelling victory. But just as it seemed as if he would secure for South Africa a precious series win in India, Harbhajan Singh kept his date with destiny.
Harbhajan, who had been criticised in the days leading up to the Test for not doing enough as India's lead spinner, was the most consistent threat on Thursday. With Zaheer Khan unable to bowl after suffering a muscle strain on the fourth day, it was to Harbhajan that M.S. Dhoni most often turned. And the off-spinner justified his captain's faith in him, ending a nerve-wracking contest with his fifth wicket.
India might have left it late — a minimum of nine deliveries remained — but to its credit it got the job done. The innings-and-57-run win didn't merely square the series; it ensured India retained its No. 1 ranking, a position South Africa could have usurped with a series win.
The fifth day was a fitting end to what has been a strangely even series between the world's two best Test sides. South Africa dominated India in the first Test in Nagpur. India dictated terms here, and might conceivably have settled the match earlier if the weather hadn't intervened.
Instead, the patrons at Eden Gardens — a remarkably sporting bunch that felt Amla's pain as he walked off the field, beard fluttering gently in the breeze — were treated to a rewarding day's cricket.
India tried this and that for nearly two hours on Thursday morning before taking a wicket. Dhoni, who knew he had to manage the workload of four bowlers among three, chose to give each short spells. But this didn't seem to let the bowlers settle.
In complete control
Amla was near flawless in the extended first session. Barring a Harbhajan top-spinner that he edged for three and an Ishant lifter that smashed his elbow, Amla had matters under control. His concentration was otherworldly, his footwork precise. To the spinners, he often moved deep into his crease, allowing the ball to expend everything the bowler had put on it before he met it. When he sprang forward, he was almost always to the pitch of the delivery, ready to smother its spin.
Ashwell Prince was far less convincing than his partner, but he kept India's bowlers out till late into the morning session. Eventually, Harbhajan deceived the left-hander in the air with a flighted off-break from over the wicket. Prince pushed tentatively against the break, and the ball ballooned to mid-off.
Amit Mishra has a habit of producing great deliveries to very good batsmen, and a googly completely fooled A.B. de Villiers. The batsman played for the leg-break, his bat outside the delivery's line, and found to his consternation that the ball broke in just enough to find him in front of his stumps.
In the 10 overs leading to lunch, India had taken two wickets for seven runs.
Harbhajan struck twice after lunch. J.P. Duminy, who's had a horror tour mainly because of Harbhajan, fell again to the off-spinner. Where the delivery that got Prince was about five kmph slower than Harbhajan's average speed, the one that found Duminy leg-before was five kmph faster. When Harbhajan dismissed Steyn leg-before, the end appeared nigh.
But India still couldn't find a way past Amla (Harbhajan's leg-before appeal when Amla was on 73 had merit; it was the closest India got to ending the batsman's stay on Thursday).
Wayne Parnell settled and started to look comfortable, and it wasn't until the second new ball was taken, in the 91st over, that the next chance came. But Suresh Raina, on as a substitute at gully, shelled the chance Ishant created.
In all, India had to wait 102 minutes after the fall of the seventh wicket for its next. Ishant, who was ordinary in the middle session, accounted for Parnell (caught at mid-on) and Paul Harris (caught at third slip) after tea.
Amla and Morne Morkel denied India for 76 minutes and 125 deliveries, the former looking, if possible, increasingly secure, the latter doing enough to get by.
Morkel had several near misses — each time the air thickened with tension. Finally, Harbhajan trapped the gangling Morkel in front of his stumps, and took off with his mates in pursuit.
Sachin Tendulkar commiserated with the unconquered Amla before joining in.
South Africa — 1st innings: 296.
India — 1st innings: 643 for six wkts. decl.
South Africa — 2nd innings: G. Smith lbw b Mishra 20 (33b, 2x4), A. Petersen c Badrinath b Harbhajan 21 (51b, 2x4), H. Amla (not out) 123 (394b, 16x4), J. Kallis c Dhoni b Mishra 20 (47b, 3x4), A. Prince c Ishant b Harbhajan 23 (80b, 1x4), A.B. de Villiers lbw b Mishra 3 (16b), J.P. Duminy lbw b Harbhajan 6 (22b, 1x4), D. Steyn lbw b Harbhajan 1 (16b), W. Parnell c Harbhajan b Ishant 22 (64b, 4x4), P. Harris c sub (Karthik) b Ishant 4 (24b, 1x4), M. Morkel lbw b Harbhajan 12 (60b, 3x4); Extras (b-6, lb-5, nb-18, w-1, pen-5): 35; Total (in 131.3 overs): 290.
Fall of wickets: 1-36 (Smith), 2-54 (Petersen), 3-111 (Kallis), 4-158 (Prince), 5-164 (de Villiers), 6-172 (Duminy), 7-180 (Steyn), 8-250 (Parnell), 9-264 (Harris).
India bowling: Zaheer 6-0-32-0, Harbhajan 48.3-23-59-5, Ishant 25-5-84-2, Mishra 40-12-78-3, Sehwag 10-2-20-0, Tendulkar 2-1-1-0 .