The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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We would've played differently: Sourav
- Hall regrets missing out on a double century

Kanpur: With the law of diminishing wickets operating at the Green Park, the first Test may end in a yawn-inducing draw. Three days remain, but with the South Africans desperate to show no enterprise, the sparks must now come from India.

However, even if the visitors declare at the end-of-second-day 459 for seven ' closing at 500, though, is more likely ' the Indians will have to tread cautiously. The fireworks (assuming they're on the agenda in a big way) simply cannot be ignited straightaway.

Agreed the wicket is lethargic, to say the least, but the South Africans' approach baffled. If 230 was scored for the loss of four wickets on Day I, Sunday saw the addition of 229, with just three dismissals.

Except debutant Zander de Bruyn, who took pleasure in clearing the field, others were content playing a waiting game. Cricket, therefore, had to be awfully boring. And, after a while, even the Indians' line of attack turned defensive.

That made it worse.

'I wouldn't like to comment on the South Africans' mindset... But, my team would have played differently,' Team India captain Sourav Ganguly told The Telegraph.

Understandably, he defended his bowlers' line: 'If you're talking of (Murali) Kartik then, well, he had to land in the rough... That was the only chance of getting the ball to do something.'

Sourav, however, felt it unfair to compare the Graeme Smith-led South Africans with the Australians who just featured in four Tests. 'You've got to look at the teams... Moreover, this wicket doesn't have anything,' he said.

The South Africans' safety-first approach was, of course, perfectly reflected in Andrew Hall's innings. Resuming on 78, he reached his maiden Test century with a sweep off Anil Kumble and went on to score 163 (588 minutes, 454 balls, 17x4).

'I regret not getting a double... I was working towards it... Initially, I did find it tough as I'm a stroke-player but have been assigned a different role,' he remarked.

Hall, informed he would open less than 48 hours before the Test got underway, added that he saw himself as an allrounder.

'I'm there for whatever is needed to be done... There have been occasions when I've thrown it (the chance) away, yet I've always believed in my ability,' he pointed out.

Describing senior pro Jacques Kallis as the 'ideal' batsman, Hall thanked him for tips. He also spoke of Gary Kirsten, who offered invaluable advice during the squad's week-long preparatory camp in Pretoria, in much the same breath.

Hall, though, didn't agree the South Africans were playing for a draw: 'Nobody plays for one...' he insisted, appearing somewhat offended by the suggestion.

Kartik, by the way, bluntly questioned the visitors' strategy. 'I'm not sure what their mental make-up is... The team (Australia) which recently toured India would have been positive.'

Giving a bowler's perspective, Kartik observed: 'It's a hardworking wicket... Even the bat-pad offerings aren't carrying... A bowler only looks for some zip... That's all...'

Incidentally, Kumble (who eventually got Hall in classic manner) has taken another fiver. That tally stands at a handsome 28. The other wickets were shared by Sourav ' evicting Boeta Dippenaar with the second new ball ' and Harbhajan Singh (De Bruyn).

Laxman much better

Meanwhile, V.V.S. Laxman, who was struck on the right shin and went off, is 'much better.'

Speaking exclusively at the team hotel, he said: 'As of now, I'm going to be available from the first ball tomorrow... The prompt icing and compression by Andrew (Leipus) controlled the swelling...'

Thank God for that.

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