Welcome to South Africa: Pace, bounce and swing give India a rude awakening
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It was the first real bouncer of the day. And it was quick and nasty. Unlike the few that had cruised over the South African batsmen's heads, hardly threatening them. This was at breakneck speed and climbing towards Shikhar Dhawan's throat, fast and menacingly. The Delhi left-hander did to his credit attempt a pull-shot. A meek one it might have been. The result: top-edged and looping into wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock's gloves.
You could almost have imagined the entire Indian dressing-room go 'Nooo' in unison. Not just because their hopeful pursuit of 359 had been rendered an early shock with the loss of their attacking opener. But more so because the dismissal had set off a chorus of 'I told you so' around the cricketing world, probably even back home in India. And as India were all out for 217, losing the first ODI by 141 runs, the old story about India's woes on lively tracks abroad was unfolding once again.
Pace, bounce, seam, Steyn and Morkel after all have been the buzzwords ever since the Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co left for these shores three days back. And with just one well-directed short-pitched delivery, Morkel had set the tone in many ways for the tour.
Dale Steyn was not bowling bouncers at the other end, however. The South African pace ace instead was rendering Rohit Sharma a reality check. By the end of Steyn's second over, Rohit had left six balls alone while the other six had seamed past his outside-edge. The bat and ball were having a clear tiff. The right-hander, who had arrived here in the pinkest form imaginable, was in the middle of a strenuous inquisition, one for which he seemed to have no response.
Different ball game
Despite not being filled to the brim, the Bullring was living up to its reputation. The cauldron was now starting to feel a lot more daunting, especially for Rohit. All of a sudden, ODI cricket seemed a lot more different. You couldn't just plonk your front foot and smash the delivery, whatever its length, anywhere you pleased. The ball was playing tricks it wasn't supposed to, or ones that the Indian batsmanhadn't witnessed in a long while.