Updated: Friday, 27 December 2013 00:35 | By Agence France-Presse

Indian batsmen in command as South Africans struggle

Indian batsmen Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara shared an unbeaten century partnership before bad light stopped play on the first day of the second and final Test against South Africa at Kingsmead on Thursday.


Indian batsmen in command as South Africans struggle

India's Cheteshwar Pujara during the second Test between India and South Africa in Durban on December 26, 2013

India were 181 for one when the day’s play was brought to a premature end eight overs after tea.

Vijay (91 not out) and Pujara (58 not out) put on 140 for the second wicket as South Africa’s bowlers toiled on a slow pitch which fast bowler Morne Morkel described as being similar to surfaces found in the Indian sub-continent.

"We as bowlers were a little surprised at the pace of the wicket,” said Morkel.

"It was a little on the slow side. But as a bowling unit it is important for us to move away from those sort of things.

"The conditions are what they are and we need to deal with them. It was hard work."

Morkel said the ball quickly lost its shine on a dry surface, enabling the bowlers to gain reverse swing before the early close.

"After 13 overs the ball looked 60 overs old. We need to find a way to bring reverse swing into the game."

It was an inauspicious opening day for world champions South Africa after captain Graeme Smith said the team were determined to put in a good performance to mark star all-rounder Jacques Kallis’ last Test.

Kallis, 38, announced on Wednesday that he would retire from Test cricket after the match, although he will continue to play one-day cricket in an effort to win selection for the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Kallis led the South African team on to the field at the start of play to the applause of his team-mates, spectators and umpires Steve Davis and Rod Tucker.

Morkel claimed South Africa’s only wicket when he had Shikhar Dhawan caught at third slip off the first ball after the mid-morning drinks break.

Dhawan made 29 in an opening stand of 41 with Vijay.

Morkel suffered a sprained right ankle while fielding on the third day of the drawn first Test in Johannesburg last Friday.

It was initially expected he would be put of action for between seven and ten days but he passed a fitness test on Thursday morning after intensive treatment.

Morkel said the team had only heard that Kallis was about to retire two days before the game.

"It was a shock," he said.

"It added ten percent to my recovery because I wanted to play this game for Jacques."

Indian bowling coach Joe Dawes said it had been a good toss for captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to win.

"It looked pretty flat," he said.

Dawes said he hoped India would post a good total.

"Then the pitch might break up a bit and our bowlers might get reverse swing."

Batting first also gave India’s fast bowlers a chance to recover further from their exertions in Johannesburg, where India bowled 136 overs in the last innings without being able to clinch victory.

Dhawan and Vijay both looked confident at the start of the innings and the left-handed Dhawan struck four boundaries before edging a drive to Alviro Petersen at third slip.

Vijay batted patiently to notch a half-century off 102 balls, including 11 boundaries. By the close he had faced 201 balls and added another six fours.

Pujara followed up his 153 in the second innings in Johannesburg with another impressive innings, reinforcing his reputation as the successor to Rahul Dravid in playing the anchor batting role for his team.

He reached his fifty shortly before tea off 97 balls with seven fours. He faced another 20 deliveries before the close without adding to his tally of boundaries.

The match started in bright sunshine but by tea the ground had clouded over and the floodlights were on.

The umpires had several discussions about the light before taking the players off just over half an hour after the interval.

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