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Proteas need Lord's inspiration to save Test

Last updated on: February 16, 2010 20:28 IST

South Africa will have to look no further than the Lord's Test of 2008 for inspiration as they set about saving the second Test against India at the Eden Gardens and securing a series victory.

At close on the third day, the Proteas were six without loss in their second innings, needing a further 341 runs to wipe out India's first innings lead.

That will not be the end of the story, because they will still need to go on batting long enough to prevent India from having the chance to knock off the winning runs.

Under normal sub-continent conditions that would represent a near super-human task. But this is no ordinary Indian pitch. It is as flat as flat can be, as the Proteas' bowlers found out during their toils through the last six sessions.

The biggest obstacle in the way of the Proteas will not lie in the pitch itself, but in the mental pressure exerted on any side by the sheer weight of runs stacked up against them.

The next big obstacle will be the frenetic and fanatical nature of the home crowd and their ability to lift India's most likely match-winner, Harbhajan Singh, into a similar tidal wave of emotion.

This is something Harbhajan has a habit of doing at this particular ground, most notably in 2001, in India's famous victory over Australia after being forced to follow-on. This was undoubtedly the Test match of the first decade of the current century.

Another emotional sub-plot is the fact that the No 1 world ranking hinges on the outcome of the next two days in a series that is generally regarded as the forerunner to a proper world Test championship.

The similarities between Eden Gardens 2010 and Lord's 2008 are remarkable. On the latter occasion, South Africa closed the third day on 13/0 in 4 overs and needed a further 342 to make England bat again. This time South Africa are 6/0 and need a further 341 runs to make India bat again.

In either case there are still two full days (180 overs) left, although play will start 18 minutes early to make up for time lost on the third day to bad light.

The Proteas also have five surviving batsmen from the Lord's Test in Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla (they both scored second innings centuries), Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince (who scored a first innings century and was not out in the second) and AB de Villiers.

Alviro Petersen (a first innings centurion here) replaces Neil McKenzie (a second innings centurion at Lord's) and JP Duminy takes the place of Mark Boucher.

The Eden Gardens pitch appears as batting-friendly as Lord's was on July 13 and 14, 2008, and this has been borne out by the four centuries scored by the Indian top order in the ongoing match.

Be that as it may, the moment now has to be seized as it was at Lord's in 2008, and indeed at Edgbaston, Perth and Melbourne later the same year.

That is what world championship teams are made of.