The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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'Negative' line fails to contain India
- Nothing will happen if we can't squeeze in more than 72 overs: Sourav

Kanpur: It's not clear how the South African bowlers fared at the team hotel's bowling alley (Magic Strikes), on Tuesday night, but they haven't been on target at the Green Park.

Or else, India wouldn't have reached 401 for four by stumps on yet another day hit by fog and, then, poor light. But, with just a day remaining in Test No.1, South Africa's unstated objective ' playing out a draw ' is about to be realised.

The Indians, after all, will have to overtake the visitors' 510 for nine declared (and do so quickly) if a dash of excitement is to be added to Wednesday's proceedings. Yet, the most dominant presence could again be that of the elements.

'Frankly, it's difficult making a comment... Much, obviously, is going to depend on whether a 9 o'clock start is possible... Nothing will happen if we can't squeeze in more than 72 overs (as on Day IV),' Sourav Ganguly told The Telegraph.

Incidentally, the Team India captain himself got runs ' a tidy 57 (156 minutes, 111 balls, 7x4), his first Test fifty of the season ' and is looking to build on that in the second and final showdown, at the Eden, from Sunday.

For now, though, Sourav has fingers crossed as Appeals Commissioner Tim Castle is to sit in judgement on Thursday afternoon.

The fourth day, of course, largely belonged to Virender Sehwag, who crossed 1,000 (Test) runs for the year during the course of his eighth hundred ' 164 (336 minutes, 228 balls, 24x4, 2x6). In fact, resuming on 85, he contributed 79 of the 216 runs scored.

However, while Sehwag got to three-figures, young Gautam Gambhir missed his maiden hundred by a few runs. 'I did become conscious of approaching something special... I tried to calm myself, but... I got out to a rash shot,' he accepted.

Gambhir, though, vowed not to 'throw' it away when he next neared a hundred. Playing only his second Test, he scored 96 in 246 minutes and off 151 balls (11x4, 1x6).

More significant, Gambhir's 218-run opening collaboration with Sehwag became the second highest by an Indian pair. Right at the top is the epic 413 put together by Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad.

Vice-captain Rahul Dravid also got runs (an unbeaten 52), but simply wasn't able to force the pace in the afternoon.

All of Sehwag's hundreds have come in the first innings. In other words, then, he is becoming a big innings No.1 player. That suits India fine.

Reflecting on a terrific knock, Sehwag said: 'I'd decided not to gift my wicket... In any case, there's nothing in the surface... Do I regret missing a double' No... I would have, had I thrown my wicket away...'

By the way, he had much praise for Gambhir ('his shots yesterday were unbelievable' and more).

Even off-the-field, however, Sehwag launched into the South Africans: 'They've talked about positive cricket and winning, but were negative on all four days... Mujhe to ek per cent bhi kuch positive nahin dikha...'

Specifically, Sehwag slammed Graeme Smith's team for bowling a denial-line. At the same time, he felt wickets must offer something for the bowlers. 'Kuch to carry ya spin hona chahiye,' is what he observed.

South Africa's vice-captain, Boeta Dippenaar, (predictably) didn't concur with Sehwag. 'Under the circumstances, we did our best,' he explained.

That didn't convince, though.

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