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Little cricket, but India under pressure
- I can’t get a fiver each time, says Sreesanth

Durban: Sachin Tendulkar dropped Ashwell Prince on 41 and the left-hander went on to score his fifth Test century. On Wednesday, Graeme Smith couldn’t hold on to a dolly from Sachin, then on 21, and it’s to be seen whether he profits as much.

Sachin, in any case, has improved on his year’s best (44 in the first innings at the Wanderers) and will resume on Day III of the second Castle Test on 46. Vice-captain V.V.S.Laxman is at the other end.

The Indians are in a distinctly uncomfortable position: 103 for three. It would’ve been worse had the South African captain not muffed up when the score was 69. “We’ve got to keep our heads up and take the next one,” remarked Prince.

Virender Sehwag failed yet again, perishing for the umpteenth time in the slips cordon, for a first ball duck. Some experts chose to be generous, but others feel he (like Irfan Pathan) should return to domestic cricket.

Wasim Jaffer didn’t get very many, but at least spent almost two hours at the Kingsmead wicket which has become rather flat. Captain Rahul Dravid, unfortunately, got a hard decision from Asad Rauf.

Earlier, South Africa continued to bat for as many as 88 minutes and the last two wickets added 71. Clearly, the tail didn’t just wag as the hosts finished on 328, a total few would’ve expected after they were 28 for three very early into the opening day. But, then, that’s cricket.

The worry is that we may not have too much of it on the last three days as well. The light becomes unplayable rather quickly and if 73 overs were sent down on Tuesday, Day II saw as few as 57.1. Such statistics aren’t going to draw the paying public.

Late in the evening, it even began raining.

Wednesday started with the attention on Prince — the first non-White to have got the captaincy, albeit in a stand-in capacity earlier this year — who was unbeaten on 98. He went on to 121 (316 minutes, 212 balls, 16x4) and has emerged his country’s leading Test run-getter in 2006.

“I slept well, but woke up early and saw the Ashes telecast... Saw the Australians (Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds) get centuries and hoped I would get mine too... I wasn’t up to it physically last evening... Had cramps, but a trip to the beach and a swim made me feel better,” Prince revealed.

Five centuries in 25 Tests is pretty good. “My game plan has been to bat for four-five hours and, if I do that, I’m confident of getting a century... I’ve been playing first-class cricket for a decade and needed to raise my game at the Test level,” he added.

Asked by The Telegraph whether he grew up idolising any batsman, Prince said: “No... If somebody had a big impact, it was (former West Indies allrounder) Eldine Baptiste, when he played for Eastern Province... Not anybody else...”

While he felt the wicket was “good” for batting, there still was “something” in it for the bowlers.

Sreesanth, who returned the best figures (four for 109), insisted he wasn’t disappointed at missing out on the fifth. “I can’t get a fiver each time... It was hard work and I must be satisfied with four... I’m looking forward to the second innings...”

He added: “I haven’t felt the pressure (after Wanderers)... I’ve been talking to the seniors in the team... Speaking to Allan Donald and Wasim Akram... Makhaya Ntini as well... They’ve asked me to continue with what I’ve been doing... The (hot and humid) conditions here have reminded me of home (Kochi)...”

[Akram, incidentally, had a session with Sreesanth and Vikram Rajvir Singh before the day’s play. Also present was Sunil Gavaskar.]

Sreesanth, who’d begun as a leg-spinner, confessed that he wanted to “hit” batsmen when he switched to bowling quick. “I realised that wouldn’t be possible all the time and, so, I looked at developing the yorker...”

Having been fined at the Wanderers, Sreesanth has sobered somewhat. “I react when I’m in a particular frame of mind... However, I don’t want to miss a match...” Roshan Mahanama, at least, will be happy that his ‘education’ is bearing fruit.

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