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India reach 70/2 at lunch after openers depart cheaply

M S Dhoni with Rohit Sharma

Virat Kohli batted with a positive mindset after the openers were dismissed cheaply as India reached 70 for two at lunch against South Africa
M S Dhoni with Rohit Sharma

Johannesburg: Virat Kohli batted with a positive mindset after the openers were dismissed cheaply as India reached 70 for two at lunch against South Africa, on the first day of the first cricket Test here today.

Kohli looked in good touch as he went into the lunch undefeated on 32 while Cheteshwar Pujara was batting on 18.

The duo added 46 runs for the undefeated third wicket stand after South African speedsters Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel removed Shikhar Dhawan (13) and Murali Vijay (6) to reduce the visitors to 24 for two in 15.1 overs.

Kohli’s run-a-ball 32 had five boundaries including a couple that came off the last over before lunch off
leg-spinner Imran Tahir’s bowling.

India won the toss and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni opted to bat first on what looked like a good track to bat on after the initial help for the fast bowlers.

Steyn and his new ball partner Vernon Philander bowled a lot of outswingers in their initial overs, beating the batsmen on couple of occasions, yet not getting that first chance until the 5th over.

Dhawan just jabbed at a short ball, which looped up but there were no close-in fielders. Thereafter, the opening duo seemed to settle down just a tad, pushing and prodding with confidence as they negotiated the first thirty minutes without any loss. India were sedately going along having scored eight runs in the first five overs.

The action began in the ninth over, as Steyn dished out some short stuff to Dhawan. The third ball of the over looped from Dhawan’s bat as he played a half-hearted pull and it went for four runs. The fourth ball, also short, went off the handle and fell short of gully.

The fifth ball, again short, went down legside and the batsman made an attempt to play at it. And then finally on the last ball of the over, Dhawan was out caught fine leg by Imran Tahir, as he mistimed a pull-shot again.

India’s average opening stand since January 2011 has been 15.96 and the poor trend continues.

Morne Morkel was introduced in the 12th over and he was a cause of concern for Vijay. The Tamil Nadu opener edged one to third slip, but playing with soft hands, it didn’t carry properly.

In his next over, Vijay had no clue about a short delivery as it made contact with the bat and looped to forward short leg, falling just short of Hashim Amla’s reach.

It signalled the end of an uncomfortable first hour for India, as they were placed at 24/1. Pujara negotiated the first over after drinks from Jacques Kallis without trouble, but Vijay’s patience finally gave away as he edged a fuller delivery from Morkel trying to play a drive without any footwork.

India’s new No 4, Kohli’s first scoring shot was a beautiful pull off Kallis followed by a little streaky one off Morkel through third man for four.

Pujara, in this interim, was a little more secure. He had fewer moments of doubt against the openers combined. He brought up India’s 50 in the 25th over, with a push to covers, running for a quick single.

He hit two boundaries, the first a delightful cut through point while the second one was cut over the slip cordon as skipper Graeme Smith had just taken off third man.

For the hosts, Steyn (8-1-18-1) and Morkel (6-4-6-1) enjoyed success, picking a wicket each.

India made three changes from their last Test against West Indies in Mumbai, bringing in Ajinkya Rahane for the retired Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan for Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma for Pragyan Ojha. South Africa has Hashim Amla coming back in place of Dean Elgar.


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