| (From left) Andrew Hall and Shaun Pollock kill time at their laptops, while India coach John Wright works out strategy in Kanpur on Monday as dense fog delayed the start on Day III. (PTI)
Kanpur: 'Bindaas batting karna...' was Team India captain Sourav Ganguly's advice to Gautam Gambhir on the eve of the first Test against South Africa.
On Monday afternoon, Gambhir did just that. He even got to his (maiden) fifty before the flamboyant Virender Sehwag got his eighth and, at stumps on a fog-hit day, was on a par with his much more experienced opening mate.
Both Sehwag and Gambhir are on 85 ' the youngster's, by the way, has been quicker ' and their unbroken 185-run partnership has given India a Ferrari-like start.
Of course, Sehwag could have been out twice and Gambhir (playing only his second Test) once, but then, Andrew Hall should never have gone as far as 163.
Significantly, the Sehwag-Gambhir effort is India's best since the 160 between Sehwag and Akash Chopra in Multan eight months ago... Moreover, it's the highest versus South Africa and the best by an Indian pair here.
There was nothing outrageous in the openers' approach, rather the runs came off pedigreed shots.
Gambhir, it may be recalled, had a horrendous debut in Mumbai this month and, so, took guard with tonnes of pressure. It's to his credit he didn't allow the weight of having flopped (on debut) and being up against a 500-plus score to unsettle him.
Even if Gambhir doesn't add a run, he will be retained for the Calcutta Test and, in all probability, for the two Tests in Bangladesh as well.
The statistical 'achievement' apart, Sehwag and Gambhir have opened the possibility of India continuing at a frenetic pace ' currently well in excess of four an over ' and actually reaching a terms-dictating position by stumps on the fourth day.
South Africa, for the record, prolonged their innings even though the first session on Day III was lost not to rain or seepage but fog. Graeme Smith finally declared at 510 for nine (the highest in India), some 39 minutes after lunch.
The fog changed the Green Park's visage and, for a while, it was impossible to spot anything. 'I couldn't see ten metres away,' remarked Anil Kumble, who has taken his tally to 430.
He is, however, seeing his immediate target (435 wickets) very well...
'The fog upset our plans... Yes, we were cautious on the first two days, but that was inevitable as we have an inexperienced team,' maintained South African coach Ray Jennings, adding 'ideally, we ought to have got the runs in a session less...'
Given the crawl, made to look worse by the Indians' blitz, he had to make that admission.
Reacting to the Indian assault, he said: 'We've seen a superb display... One must be prepared for anything when facing a top team...' The coach, though, wasn't harsh on his bowlers led by the seasoned Shaun Pollock.
Having been an opener, Team India coach John Wright was effusive. 'Veeru and Gambhir batted brilliantly... Such a positive performance can, eventually, give us a chance... Let's see how the first couple of sessions go tomorrow,' he told The Telegraph.
Sourav echoed much the same thoughts.
Scheduled start advanced
Play on the last two days is going to begin early, at 9.00 am, assuming there's no fog. Conditions permitting, play will continue till 5.30 pm, the idea being to make up the many hours lost on Monday.