Fitting reply by S. African openers
I won’t ever let the team down: Sehwag
Specialist for Dighe
Paes, Bhupathi reach final
3rd title of year for Arjun Singh
Dramatic 1-wkt victory for Bengal
Bangalore Racing/ Snow Dew wins untroubled

Bloemfontein, Nov. 4: 
More than one truism got reinforced today. That a job well begun is half done. That great partnerships end in twos. That class does matter...

Hit by ‘Hurricane Sachin’ yesterday, South Africa struck hard to regain initiative in the first of three Tests. After Gary Kirsten, their most prolific rungetter, and Herschelle Gibbs collaborated 189 for the first-wicket, Jacques Kallis and the exciting Neil McKenzie added a record 130 for the third, with the latter falling on what became the last delivery.

At stumps on Day-II, Kallis was unbeaten on 49 (150 minutes, 94 balls, 7x4). McKenzie, going back and not offering a shot to Anil Kumble, was adjudged leg-before for 68 (144 minutes, 134 deliveries, 7x4). Significantly, Kallis hasn’t been dismissed even once in Tests this season, his unbeaten sequence beginning in Zimbabwe: 157, 42, 189 and, now, 49.

It’s an astounding run but, then, Kallis is a class act.

Only briefly did India get into the frame, so to say, at Goodyear Park. That was when Gibbs followed Kirsten within seven minutes of their scintillating association ending. Even then, the openers’ wickets in quick succession, shortly before tea, helped India regain marginal control only.

Till then it had been South Africa’s day, which began with the last three Indian wickets adding a mere seven runs to the overnight 372 for seven. Kallis and McKenzie, though, pushed India out of the picture just as quickly as India had squeezed in. Now, South Africa are a mere 52 behind and the advantage is firmly with Shaun Pollock.

Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, however, isn’t despondent. “There is still lots of cricket left… In any case, tomorrow will be a fresh day,” he told The Telegraph at the team hotel.

Amazingly, the quicks bowled on both sides of the wicket and India paid the penalty. The one saving grace was Kumble, playing his first Test in 20 months. He bowled 23 overs on-the-trot, this opening spell beginning before lunch and ending after tea. Later, he had two short ones.

As individuals, Kirsten and Gibbs are perhaps as different as chalk and cheese. The senior pro has always been correct (and clear) about everything — a few years ago, he even relinquished the vice-captaincy. Gibbs has been controversial: The match-fixing controversy, the recent drugs scandal... He has featured in them all, not to mention being booked for violating ‘curfew’ hours.

Today, at least, this difference was reflected in their respective innings as well. Gibbs was much more aggressive as he cut, drove and pulled with contempt. Kirsten, at the other end, began with seven boundaries before lunch (91 for no loss) but, after the break, didn’t score for 25 balls and 31 minutes.

While both were on 40 apiece at lunch, the second session saw Gibbs take off like an F-16. Except Kumble, Gibbs launched into everybody.

That both Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan are coming off an injury-induced lay-off was much in evidence. They appeared rusty and plenty of width was (particularly) given to the openers, who made merry, treating the offering as an attractive pre-Christmas gift.

It’s criminal not to bowl to your field and, if an internal Code was in existence, both quicks would be heavily fined. Indeed, at times, Sourav’s field placements were made to look silly.

In Nehra’s tenth over Gibbs helped himself to three boundaries and, in Zaheer’s second spell, smashed him for two sixes. The first was a pull in the square-leg region, the second (beyond mid-wicket) took Gibbs to his fourth Test hundred (first on South African soil).

There can be no more flamboyant a manner to get a hundred. Sadly, it’s a pity so few were present at the Park to watch that six. It’s possible Gibbs would have turned on the heat even more, but Kirsten fell soon enough and, then, Gibbs himself departed.

Kirsten became Kumble’s 277th victim when he sought to slog-sweep and played on. His 73 came in 184 minutes, off 132 deliveries (12x4). The opening stand was worth 189. Incidentally, earlier this season, the two posted 256 against Zimbabwe, in Harare.

Gibbs, who took to this match with four fifties and one hundred in his last ten Test innings, went within minutes —driving Jawagal Srinath straight to Zaheer. His 107 took 191 minutes and 145 balls (16x4, 2x6). Two of his earlier three-figure knocks came in New Zealand and the third in Zimbabwe, not many weeks ago.

Talking to newsmen, Gibbs remarked it was “reassuring” to have finally got a hundred at home and that he played in a manner which comes naturally. He added: “Having got out thrice in the Eighties, in the West Indies this year, it’s nice to have got into three-figures...” In Gibbs’ opinion, the wicket still has “much life.”

Earlier, the Indian innings lasted 23 minutes. Deep Dasgupta did well to counter a Mornantau Hayward yorker, and get some runs, but didn’t last long. The debutant guided Pollock into his counterpart’s gloves. In fact, Mark Boucher took it low.

Deep, though, did well to survive close to two hours and tidy work behind the stumps will fetch high marks not just with the team management but the selectors back home. As for Samir Dighe, he must already be cursing his back.

The debutant was quickly followed by Zaheer and Srinath, both of whom weren’t keen to hang around. Zaheer became Pollock’s fourth victim, Srinath was wicket No.3 for Hayward. Once again, everybody got a reminder India probably has the most pronounced tail in the big league.

No plus that.


Bloemfontein, Nov. 4: 
There are few more quieter cricketers than Virender Sehwag. Few more determined, too. For evidence of that, a glance at the stocky Najafgarh-based allrounder’s CV will be enough. He dreamt big and, well, has made it.

Of course, Sehwag didn’t make much of an impression when blooded during the tri-series at home, ahead of the 1999 World Cup. He made a brief comeback during Zimbabwe’s tour of India last year, making two ODI-appearances, but made headlines during the opening one-dayer versus Australia, in Bangalore, this year.

A superb 58 and three wickets fetched him the MoM award but, as it turned out, he also broke his right thumb (thanks to an awkward fall) and had to miss the remaining four ODIs. Such is his commitment, though, that Sehwag wanted to play despite the injury.

Obviously, that wasn’t possible, but it earned him high praise from coach John Wright. “Indian cricket needs more players with Sehwag’s attitude... Guys like him will always have my respect,” is what Wright had then said, speaking exclusively.

Sehwag made a comeback during the tri-series in Zimbabwe and, then, was picked for the ODIs in Sri Lanka. He again made bold headlines by smashing the New Zealand attack for a breathtaking 100 — the eighth-fastest in ODIs — in a match India simply had to win. So, that was another MoM award.

Those runs, by the way, came in a new position: Makeshift opener.

There was the outside chance that Sehwag would have stayed back for the Tests, as well, but had to return home. This time, the selectors and the team management did well to retain him for the Test series which got underway yesterday. No longer is Sehwag an ODI-specialist.

Rather, Sehwag is now in that select bunch of 11 Indians with hundreds on Test debut. In fact, he became the eighth (the last being captain Sourav Ganguly) to post that milestone in his very first innings. The other three (Lala Amarnath, Abbas Ali Baig and Gundappa Vishwanath) got to three-figures in innings No.2.

“I’ve always had the confidence of doing well in the longer version of the game but, then, main wahi karunga jo role mujhe diya jata hai. I knew, however, I wouldn’t disappoint anybody. Itna to confidence tha,” Sehwag told The Telegraph at the Holiday Inn last night, after an impromptu dinner ‘hosted’ by Sourav.

Incidentally, the other ‘invitees’ were V.V.S. Laxman, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan.

Looking back on his India debut, in 1999, Sehwag confessed he probably wasn’t prepared for internatonal cricket. “Till then, I didn’t even have enough exposure in domestic cricket and, so, when I was dropped, I decided to make the most of every opportunity that came my way in either the Ranji Trophy or other tournaments. I looked at my exclusion positively, an attitude which helped...”

An unabashed admirer of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav, Sehwag is also a fan of Carl Hooper. Yesterday, it did make a huge difference that Sachin was at the other end, when Sehwag took guard at 68 for four. It allowed him to quickly grow in confidence and play the balls on merit.

“Well, yes, kuch nervousness to thi, but Sachin kept telling me I should enjoy the moment. That never again would I be so tense and that it was natural to be nervous. In any case, as I was on standby for Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh), I had been preparing myself from the previous night,” Sehwag pointed out.

According to Sehwag, he had decided not to “take any chance” against South African captain Shaun Pollock and to closely watch Jacques Kallis’ swing. “I wasn’t bothered by (Mornantau) Hayward and (Makhaya) Ntini,” he added.

The gulf between first-class action at home and Test cricket has always been considered significant, but what stands out is the quicks’ pace. As Sehwag, who dedicated his hundred to parents Krishan and Krishna, put it: “The speed of the fast bowlers is definitely the biggest difference. Then, there are few loose balls. Runs koi asani se nahin bante... At this level, every run has to be earned.”

“God fearing,” Sehwag (who turned 23 on October 20) is also superstitious: A red handkerchief, which first surfaced in Sri Lanka, was pretty visible in his left trouser pocket. “Wahi roomal hai,” Sehwag remarked, laughing.

Sehwag, clearly, has a liking for the Goodyear Park turf. Last month, he clouted the Kenyans for an unbeaten 55 (as opener) in the tri-series. He had another fifty in the tournament, a blazing 55 not out, again versus Kenya, in Paarl. In the Durban final, against South Africa, Sehwag scored 34.

“The tri-series experience did come in handy... Helped me assess the South African bowlers, besides getting used to the bounce... The wicket at Centurion, specially, had much bounce,” he said.

The other qualities apart, Sehwag is pretty down-to-earth. Asked about the future, he answered, smiling: “Jitna India ke liye khel sakta hoon, utni hi khushi ho gi... Dekiye,destiny ne kya rakha hain. To repeat, though, I won’t ever let the team down.”

These are still early days, but any immediate stock-taking will surely mark Sehwag as the allrounder India has been craving for years. If it comes to that, he can even be utilised as a stop-gap (Test) opener.


Bloemfontein, Nov. 4: 
First-choice wicketkeeper Samir Dighe, forced to miss the opening Test because of a pulled back muscle (minutes before the toss yesterday), is to consult a local specialist tomorrow.

“There’s no improvement in his condition and, so, an appointment is being sought with one of the specialists here,” informed Indian team manager Dr M.K.Bhargava. Incidentally, the manager is an ENT specialist.

Meanwhile, Harbhajan Singh is “almost hundred per cent fit” and will play the four-day game in East London, India’s next stop.


Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi reached the $2.95 million Paris Masters final yesterday.

In the semi-final against the seventh-seeded pair of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, the Indian fifth seeds won 7-6 (9-7), 7-5. It is going to be their sixth final appearance this year and they have won all, barring the defeat in Basle last week.

The Indians meet the unseeded pair of Ellis Ferreira and Rich Leach in the final. They beat Zimbabwean sixth seeds Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett in the other semi-final.


Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
Arjun Singh won the Rs 30 lakh Honda-Siel PGA Championship with a record-equalling performance at the Delhi Golf Club today.

According to information received here, Arjun aggregated 17-under 271 for the four rounds, matching Shiv Prakash’s previous best recorded during the 1998 SRF Open. It was Arjun’s third title this year. It made him richer by Rs 4.86 lakh.

Twice winner Uttam Singh Mundy carded three-under 69 for the day and 13-under 275 for the event to finish second. He bagged Rs 3.36 lakh.

Mukesh Kumar won 1.89 lakh for finishing third at 10-under 278. Last year’s champion, Jyoti Randhawa, fired the day’s best of five-under 67 to finish fourth at nine-under 279.

Ashok Kumar won the amateur title despite a one-over 73 final round. He tallied two-under 286. Simarjeet Singh was second four strokes behind.


Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
Bengal’s Soujan Biswas struck a four in the penultimate ball to snatch a one-wicket victory against Bihar in the under-19 inter-state one-dayer at Eden Gardens today.

The hosts needed two from the last over with three wickets standing. But Anirban Chatterjee and Chanchal Sarkar were run out in the first four balls, throwing the match wide open.

Soujan’s bat ensured full points for Bengal. Skipper Aranya Deb Sarkar remained unbeaten on 42.

Earlier, Bihar elected to bat and were shot out for 163 despite a 70-run fourth-wicket stand between I.H. Khan and Ajit Singh.

BRIEF SCORES: Bihar 163 in 48.1 ovs (I.H. Khan 56, Ajit Singh 38; Samrat Guha 3/23, Soujan Biswas 2/32, Chanchal Sarkar 2/29). Bengal 167/9 in 49.5 ovs (Subhojit Pal 45, Aranya Deb Sarkar 42 n.o.). Bengal won by 1 wkt.

Orissa trounce Assam

Orissa defeated Assam by 149 runs in another under-19 one-dayer in Cuttack, adds PTI. Orissa made 243 in 49.5 overs and bowled Assam out for 94 runs in 47 overs.

The Orissa innings was highlighted by a 117-run opening stand between Subrat Behera (59) and Arun Nayak (51).

Sovan Baliarsingh and Priyabrata Pradhan made 44 and 50, respectively.


Bangalore, Nov. 4: 
Snow Dew, the summer season Fillies Stakes and the Derby winner, romped home with the 1,600m Krishnaraja Trophy — a preparatory race before her winter classic campaign — that took the centre stage in the Bangalore race-card on Sunday. B. Prakash partnered the Ganapathy trained well-bred three-year-old filly by Razeen out of Snow.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. November Plate 1,100m: (9-7-6) Society Dream (Afsar) 1; Orient View 2; Grace And Faith 3. Won by: 3-1/4; 4-3/4; (1-12.2). Tote: Win Rs 525; Place: 84; 11; 16; Quinella: 304; Tanala: 8,030. Fav: Orient View (7).

2. Somanathpur Plate 1,200m: (8-1-3) Radcliff (Rajesh) 1; Amalgamate 2; Fingers Crossed 3. Won by: 4-1/2; 1-1/2; (1-18.8). Tote: Win Rs 27; Place: 14; 20; 23; Quinella: 84; Tanala: 438. Fav: Radcliff (8).

3. Krishnaraja Trophy 1,600m: (4-5-3) Snow Dew (Prakash) 1; Weapon Alpha 2; Almost Heaven 3. Won by: 6-1/4; 6-1/2; (1-42.2). Tote: Win Rs 12; Place: 11; 20; 19; Quinella: 58; Tanala: 151. Fav: Snow Dew (4).

4. Melkote Plate, Div-I 1,400m: (2-3-5) Si Senora (Shroff) 1; Starjo 2; Adelante 3. Won by: 1-3/4; 4-3/4; (1-31.6). Tote: Win Rs 47; Place: 17; 11; 33; Quinella: 57; Tanala: 823. Fav: Starjo (3).

5. Air Force Cup 1,600m: (9-3-10) Star of The Crop (Gallagher) 1; Star Chieftan 2; Silvanus 3. Won by: 2; 3-1/2; (1-43.7). Tote: Win Rs 106; Place: 25; 13; 51; Quinella: 153; Tanala: 5,045. Fav: Sacristia (5).

6. Kumara Park Plate 1,200m: (3-4-8) Ride With Pride (Shakti) 1; Brave Russian 2; Southern Host 3. Won by: Dist; 1/2; (1-17.9). Tote: Win Rs 23; Place: 12; 19; 22; Quinella: 56; Tanala: 258. Fav: Ride With Pride (3).

7. Melkote Plate, Div-II 1,400m: (1-3-5) Royal Russian (Gallagher) 1; Circus Maid 2; Fugleman 3. Won by: 7-1/2; 6; (1-31.4). Tote: Win Rs 24; Place: 13; 10; 49; Quinella: 22; Tanala: 457. Fav: Circus Maid (3).

Jackpot: Rs 3,234; (C) Rs 390.

Treble: (i) Rs 95; (ii) Rs 946.


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