Sunday, January 2, 2011


How many times in the past have we seen those two names in the same line on the scoresheet? It's no secret that Zaheer Khan has been troubling Graeme Smith for quite a while now and the South African skipper's troubles continued into the new year at Newlands, Cape Town.

Like in the first innings of the Durban Test, Smith faced less than 10 balls from Zaheer Khan... or should I say, 7 balls was all Zaheer Khan needed to get his bunny once again.

However, before Smith got out, there was an incident that caught my eye. On the first ball of the 5th over of the day, Graeme Smith tucked Zaheer away on the leg side and ran two. Then he was beaten by Zaheer who drew him forward into a drive to a ball that should have been left alone. The next ball was safely defended... and on the fourth ball, Smith tucked Zaheer away to the leg side once again. Though the fielder Harbhajan Singh was closer to the ball this time, there was still a clear opportunity for another couple of runs.

However, this time Smith just ambled across to the other end for a single. Harbhajan Singh deliberately slowed down his chase and even ran backwards to see whether Smith is taking a two... and I presume that this was because the entire Indian team wanted to see Smith take strike to Zaheer. That captain was being subtly taunted...

And Smith did not take the second. I don't know if it was just me that felt it... but suddenly I thought the fielders were a lot more chirpy and Smith looked a lot more subdued. There was something amiss in that man... I don't know if it was the lack of confidence in facing Zaheer or what! But to me, it looked like a public admission by Smith of the well-documented fact that he struggles to face Zaheer Khan.

Soon enough, Zaheer worked him over brilliantly in his next over and had him out plumb. When the ball hit his back pad, Smith turned around to get back into the crease without looking at the umpire. He did not want to see that finger go up. I think he did not even see that finger... he just walked off when he heard Zaheer's whooping cry of jubilation. And his slow walk back suggested that here is a man, extremely confident and assured of himself at all times, except when he is facing up to this left arm pace bowler bowling to him from the other end.

That denied second run said a lot... it was totally unexpected from a man who had walked out into the Sydney Cricket Ground just two years ago with a broken hand to save a dead Test match for his team!

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