Cricket: S Africa wired to win

India 253-5 South Africa 254-8 S Africa win by four wickets
WHILE THE issues surrounding Hansie's Cronje's ear and an attempted assault on the Indian captain Mohammad Azharrudin and his team-mate Rahul Dravid are likely to rumble on through the corridors of power over the next few days, on the field the juggernaut that is the South African one- day cricket team is already beginning to look virtually unstoppable.

Saturday's game at Hove was embroiled in controversy at the start with the South African captain and their fast bowler Allan Donald wearing tiny receivers in their ears to receive advice from the coach Bob Woolmer. Although it was breaking no existing law, the International Cricket Council demanded their removal after a few overs, but will discuss their possible future use.

After their sticky start against a good Indian team, they still managed to justify their billing as pre-tournament favourites with a performance that grew in assurance as the day wore on. In the end, a contest that had looked more or less even for the most part, went South Africa's way in a hurry as their formidable depth in batting took its toll on the Indian bowlers.

After winning the toss and electing to bat, it seemed India's fanatical supporters would have a day to remember. Sachin Tedulkar and Saurav Ganguly punished some wayward early bowling by Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener and had put on 67 in the first 15 overs before Tendulkar, surprisingly, prodded hesitantly at Klusener and went for 28.

Dravid then joined Ganguly and the two batsmen who made their names on India's last tour of this country soon picked up where they left off three years ago. They added 130 together and, at 179 for 1 with 12 overs remaining, and the South African bowling lacking penetration, a target well in excess of 250 seemed reachable. But Dravid, having reached his fifty with a stupendous cut past Jonty Rhodes at point, had a rush of blood, providing Klusener with his second wicket.

As if piqued by Dravid's insolence, Rhodes then demonstrated yet another reason why South Africa will be so hard to beat with a brilliant run-out of Ganguly on 97. Azharrudin and Ajay Jadeja subsequently struggled to build on the solid platform as South Africa's bowlers, Donald in particular, came back strongly.

When South Africa batted wickets tumbled at more regular intervals, but, with Nicky Boje, considered for the role of pinch-hitter given to Mark Boucher, due to come in at No.10 it was always going to be a tall order for India whose own bowling, at least in ideal batting conditions such as these, does not look strong enough for them to repeat their World Cup triumph in England of 1983.