| Captain Rahul Dravid’s gaze follows the ball before his dismissal by Shaun Pollock. (AFP)
Cape Town, Nov. 26: When the going gets tough the South Africans get going — they recovered from precarious positions at Durban and here today.
As for the Indians, when the going is good they make it tough. And when the going gets tough they make it tougher.
Two wickets in the first over, including that of captain Graeme Smith who came out to open with smoke coming out of both ears after a selection row, scalped by Greg Chappell-discard Zaheer Khan.
Then 76 for 6 in the 20th over, only to be followed by a pasting Rahul Dravid and his boys will not forget in a hurry. But they carelessly wove the web of their nightmare with their own hands.
Shaun Pollock, who sowed the seeds of the fightback, was put down in the slips by Dravid off Harbhajan Singh on 12. Experts pointed out that the Indian captain was standing a foot or two too fine, which is why his right hand couldn’t get to the ball.
Pollock, who scored 33, went on to smash the Indian reply with four wickets, among them Virender Sehwag’s first-over scalp and shortly thereafter Sachin Tendulkar’s.
Coach Greg Chappell said: “The biggest concern at the moment is that key players are not doing well enough…. Sehwag is not the only player.”
After Sachin followed Sehwag, the rest was just slow burn, interrupted by some characteristic meaty shots from Mahendra Dhoni, who went to a spectacular catch.
It was the catches India couldn’t take while on top that saw it crashing to a second crushing defeat.
Justin Kemp, the man of the match who hit an unbeaten century off 89 balls, survived chances on nine and 34. He and Andrew Hall, whose inclusion ahead of Durban hero Andre Nel had Smith fuming, put together a pulverising 138 runs that is now an eighth-wicket record, taking the total to 274 for 7.
Dravid admitted as much later, saying how his team had let the opposition off the hook with dropped catches after sinking their teeth into the fleshy top half of the batting.
“We did the damage up front but could not finish…. We created the chances but could not hold on,” he said.
Dravid carried on for his 63, holding one end up and hoping Dhoni would pull off a miracle. But where India faltered South Africa flourished, taking some magnificent catches and driving the nail firmly into the coffin.
India was all out for 168 in the 42nd over.
An email sent by BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah before today’s tie to lift the team’s spirits did not help. “In the midst of despair and distress, hope, confidence, courage and faith persist,” it said.
So dig some hope out of despair for Port Elizabeth on Wednesday. Digging seems to be in order for the players, too.
As Chappell said: “I am not sure what’s the right solution…. The players have to dig deep (inside themselves).