The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Under pressure’ Jaffer shows class
- Karthik’s commendable application in 153-run stand
- An Indian wicket, says centurion

Cape Town: Keeping faith in Wasim Jaffer finally paid off. Getting Dinesh Karthik to open clicked. Now, it’s to be seen whether Virender Sehwag can justify the extraordinary faith shown by the Team India thinktank.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s non-availability came as a setback on the eve of the decider, but Rahul Dravid did well to call ‘tails’ on a wicket with the subcontinental look. “Yeh Newlands hai or is the match being played in New Delhi'” quipped Wasim Akram.

The former Pakistan captain wasn’t exactly off the mark and the Kotla curator couldn’t have done much better. Jaffer, in fact, went to the extent of saying it was an “Indian wicket.” In effect, little bounce and hardly any movement. Well, in the last Champions Trophy, Mohali reminded captain Graeme Smith of wickets at home. If this actually is a trend, we're in for interesting times.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Capetonian Herschelle Gibbs exclaimed: “Jesus, I don’t know what has been happening... The explanation has to come from the groundsman... It’s to be seen whether we have another long day in the field...”

With the three-Test Castle series 1-1, both teams had sights on wresting the initiative straightaway. Smith tripped at the toss and, then, his bowlers stumbled as Jaffer (116) and Karthik (63) put on 153 for the first-wicket. It’s a first for India in South Africa.

Seemed surreal given the poor starts in the first two Tests. The previous best, for any team, had been 99 between Smith and AB De Villiers in the second innings at Kingsmead.

To an extent, Smith’s management of bowling resources helped the Indians.

While the technically proper Jaffer’s third century (watched by wife Ayesha) was the focal point on the field, the ‘protection’ provided to Sehwag — opening from the 2002 tour of England — was much the talking point off it.

Having the former vice-captain in the middle-order may prove as successful a move as elevating Karthik, who’d opened for South in the Duleep Trophy this season, but somebody so short on confidence that he can’t do his regular job should be dropped. Not accommodated.

With Sehwag slated to bat at No.6, Sourav Ganguly will have to ‘lead’ the tail from No.7. It’s pretty absurd. Moreover, the question is: Has a precedent been set or have we seen an exception'

The last time an Indian wicketkeeper (Parthiv Patel) opened in a Test was in Rawalpindi, almost three years ago.

Karthik was dropped by Smith on 32 (95 for no loss), but full marks for application and the desire to quickly make a mark in his first appearance since Harare 16 months ago.

For a change, the full 90 overs were bowled, though the opening day went beyond the scheduled close. India finished on 254 for three, with Sachin Tendulkar on a smart 28. V.V.S. Laxman is the other not out batsman.

Expressing happiness, Jaffer accepted he’d been “under pressure.” He said: “I hadn’t done well on the tour, but the time spent in the middle in Durban (second innings) helped here... I wanted to continue from where I’d left off...”

Having played an atrocious shot there, he added he didn’t want to “repeat mistakes.”

Showing little emotion, Jaffer continued: “I’m thankful to God... Forging an understanding with Karthik wasn’t difficult as we’re friends and have been sitting next to each other (team bus) throughout the tour... With the wicket helping spin and rough patches visible, a total of 450-500 is going to be very good...”

Jaffer’s centuries, by the way, have come in the last ten months. While he will celebrate, spare a thought for poor Harbhajan Singh. He’s going to return home without playing even at a venue where the South Africans capped a spinner.

Team India's next Test will only be after the World Cup.

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