| Anil Kumble celebrates the wicket of Jacques Kallis in Kanpur on Saturday. (Reuters) l Report on Page 14
Kanpur: While Graeme Smith had no hesitation saying he was 'happy' at stumps on the opening day of the two-Test series, Sourav Ganguly maintained his feelings were 'mixed.'
'I'm happy and not so happy... It's mixed, really... Happy we restricted South Africa (230 for four) on a flat surface, not so happy about failing to get a wicket in the final session,' Sourav told The Telegraph at the team hotel.
Tucking into his favourite biscuit and a cup of tea, the Team India captain added: 'I will, of course, be very happy if we get two wickets early on Sunday... That's our intent...'
The South Africans' priority conflicts with that of the hosts: Captain Smith would like opener Andrew Hall and (deputy) Boeta Dippenaar to bat for as long as they can.
Both have already added 76, for the fifth wicket, and ensured the final session's claw-back. Hall, returning after ten months, is unbeaten on a disciplined 78 (363 minutes, 274 balls, 9x4), with Dippenaar not out 46.
Last year, incidentally, Hall smashed an unbeaten 99 off just 87 balls in the Headingley Test. At the Green Park, he adjusted professionally and put to excellent use everything 'taught' at the pre-tour conditioning camp in Pretoria.
'Hall batted with lots of patience and played for the team... He showed the kind of team man he is... I couldn't have asked for more,' lauded Smith, who himself got out in a freak manner as the ball rolled on to the stumps.
'It was a soft dismissal,' he conceded, adding 'it's unusual' for two batsmen (other being Jacques Rudolph) to get out in that manner on a single day. Both fell to Anil Kumble, who bagged all four wickets to take his career-haul to 428.
The others dismissed were Martin van Jaarsveld and top gun Jacques Kallis. Both went leg-before, with the former playing back and Kallis attempting a sweep.
Actually, it's unlikely that Hall would have opened if Herschelle Gibbs was around. Even otherwise, Smith had the option of getting either Dippenaar or Van Jaarsveld to partner him.
'On this trip, we've decided to take a few risks... Opening with Hall being one such... As it turns out, that clicked,' Smith, who did South Africa a great service by winning the toss, remarked smiling.
He didn't have to think twice about what to do.
Team India coach John Wright, by the way, acknowledged the visitors won a 'good toss,' but emphasised 'one has to be (mentally) prepared to lose as it's a fifty-fifty chance once the coin goes up...'
In a nice gesture, Wright praised the South Africans' 'application.' He said: 'They showed a lot of determination, particularly in the final session and, now, we've got to work very hard.'
Fortunately for Dinesh Karthik, the 'life' he gave Smith wasn't costly, but Kumble's inability to hold an admittedly stiff chance from Hall (on 55) off Harbhajan Singh may prove terribly damaging.
Karthik, though, doesn't seem to be the solution for India's big gloves' problem.
The wicket didn't have much to offer straightaway ' the turn was so slow that the batsmen adjusted even after being beaten in the air ' but Sourav and Wright have read it well. Only, losing the toss has altered the script somewhat.
Still, in the long run, Sourav shouldn't regret fielding all three spinners. For now, however, he must quickly end the South African innings.
The overnighters apart, debutants Zander de Bruyn and (wicketkeeper) Thami Tsolekile don't have bunny status. Then, Shaun Pollock can be counted upon for handsome runs.
Footnote: Finally, the South Africans managed to cross 200 at the Green Park. In the 1996-97 Test, their best was 180 (second innings). However, it's to be seen how much of a confidence-booster this 'achievement' really is.