India effected a stunning turnaround against South Africa on the first day of the second Test at Eden Gardens.
Dazzling centuries from South Africa’s Alviro Petersen and Hashim Amla were undermined by magnificent bursts from Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh as India effected a stunning turnaround.
South Africa had seemed set for another huge total after debutant Petersen struck an even 100 and Amla made 114, the duo adding 209 for the second wicket before both departed to edges.
Zaheer and Harbhajan, however, ran through the middle order, claiming three victims apiece as the visitors spluttered to 266 for nine having lost eight wickets for 43 when bad light ended play early.
As in the first Test in Nagpur, India opened with the wicket of Graeme Smith, but the game drifted the Proteas’ way as Petersen and Amla wrested control.
Smith, having recovered in time from a finger injury, won the toss, but did himself no favours when he was bowled through the gate by Zaheer, the ball nipping back off the seam from outside off.
Petersen, in for Mark Boucher who was forced to sit out due to back spasms, dispelled the pressure by initially dealing primarily in boundaries. He had six of them in his first 30 runs and raced to a half-century in only 55 deliveries, thereafter playing a steady hand as Amla settled in at the other end.
Amla built steadily on the momentum gained from his 253 not out in Nagpur, scoring fluently even after attacking fields gave way to more defensive ones.
The only blip in his innings came on 60, when he attempted a drive off Harbhajan, but only managed an edge which was put down by VVS Laxman at first slip.
It was a costly miss and Amla went past the 100-run mark for the ninth time in Tests, reaching the milestone with a boundary off Ishant Sharma late in the afternoon session.
Petersen, who had survived several good appeals for lbws, particularly against leg-spinner Amit Mishra, battled to a century on debut, but fell immediately after, edging Zaheer to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
At 218 for two, South Africa were still in command and on course for a massive first innings total, but-India’s bowlers then hit back in style.
The collapse began with the demise of Amla shortly after the tea interval, the batsman having been baited with a series of short deliveries from Ishant and eventually succumbing to Zaheer.
He mistimed a pull and Dhoni collected his second catch of the day.
Harbhajan, under pressure following a poor series against Bangladesh last month and an expensive two-wicket haul in Nagpur, then destroyed South Africa’s fragile middle order with a three-wicket burst.
Jacques Kallis, who had looked out of sorts, was the off-spinner’s first victim, the all-rounder attempting a sweep, but only managing a top edge which flew in the direction of short fine leg.
Laxman took a good catch running back from slip, making some amends for his earlier lapse.
Ashwell Prince and Jean-Paul Duminy, both struggling for form, were then trapped in front off successive deliveries in the off-spinner’s next over, while both attempted to defend off the front foot.
Zaheer then left the tail to the mercy of India’s attack by running out AB de Villiers at the non-striker’s end, the batsman failing to regain the crease after being sent back by Dale Steyn.
Ishant extracted Paul Harris and Mishra sent back Steyn, although the bowler was lucky with his lbw appeal as replays showed an inside edge.
Harbhajan finished the day with three for 60 from 23 overs, while Zaheer was a little more expensive at three for 77 from 21.
India: M S Dhoni (c), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma.
South Africa: Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, J P Duminy, Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell, Morne Morkel, Paul Harris.