Chennai, Mar 26: South Africa batted sedately to crawl to 109 without losing any wicket in 25 overs at lunch on the first day of the first cricket Test against India at the M A Chidambaram stadium here today.
Captain Graeme Smith (53, 71 balls, 8 fours) and Niel McKenzie (54) were at the wicket, with the onus of keeping the Indian bowlers at bay and piling up as many runs more as possible. The Proteas, who had the formidable task of putting up a fighting score in the first innings after choosing to bat first on winning the toss, were not exactly tied down by India's not so lethal pace attack of south paw R P Singh and S Sreeshanth and the double headed spin attack of captain Anil Kumble and off spinner Harbhajan, who replaced Singh and Sreeshant in tandem. In fact, Smith and his partner McKenzie combined caution with aggression waiting for the ball to come on to the bat on a pitch with not so much of bounce.
While Smith, in control except on a few occasions when Sreeshant made him play and miss the ball leaving his bat outside offstump, pulled on with an occasional hit to the fence, McKenzie, who scored his first 16 runs through boundaries, went on to complete his second half century against India off 72 balls batting for 110 minutes. It was his 14th 50 and the second against India.
Even as Kumble brought back R P Singh at the northern end, taking himself off the attack, South Africa went on to post the 100 mark in 23.2 overs, with Smith setting a South African record of figuring in a century partnership for the first wicket for 14 times vis-a-vis 13 by former batting great Barry Richards.
As the lunch break approached, Smith too completed his half century, his fifth against India and 21st in his career. The landmark came off the last ball before lunch off R P Singh.