South Africa pacer Morne Morkel was surprised at the nature of pitch on offer at the Kingsmead here after India on Thursday took early control of the series-deciding second cricket Test by finishing day one on a commanding 181 for one. (Day 1 report)
Morkel termed the Kingsmead pitch as a "sub-continent like wicket" after Murali Vijay struck a delightful unbeaten 91 and together with Cheteshwar Pujara (58 not out) added 140 runs for the second wicket before bad light brought a premature end to the opening day's proceedings. (Highlights)
"I am very surprised with the wicket here. It looks like a sub-continent wicket," Morkel said at the post-day's press conference.
"It is really dry and a little on the slower side. After the 13th over, the ball looked like it was 60 overs old," he said. (Vijay, Pujara make merry)
"But as a bowling unit we need to soak it in. We need to bowl according to a plan, only to one side of the wicket. We need to stop the flow of runs, if wickets don't come our way. It is a good break for us, and we can go back and re-plan for tomorrow," Morkel added.
Morkel was the only wicket-taker of the day for the Proteas, sending back Shikhar Dhawan for just 29 runs with India's score on 41 at that time.
"We are hoping the ball can reverse a bit more tomorrow. We need to come out and stick to a plan and take a couple of early wickets while they aren't settled. And then wait for the new ball," he said. Morkel was almost ruled out for this Test match after twisting his ankle on day three of the first match at Johannesburg.
"I had an MRI scan done and they said it was a grade three injury. Then we did a sonar scan and we found out it was only grade one. So I went into rehab and worked hard with our medical team. They did some magic and the swelling went away and we worked on fitness. I am really happy to be playing this match, especially since this is Jacques Kallis' last Test," he said.
Kallis had led the team onto the field in the morning. In fact, he was allowed to venture out 10 seconds before his mates joined him. The crowd gave him a rousing and standing ovation and he responded with raised hands and a bow with his hat.
"It was a big shock for me. I found out two days ago. I guess he had been planning this for some time and maybe this news gave me 10 per cent more inspiration to get fit and play this match. He is a very good friend of mine and I didn't want to miss his last match," Morkel added.
Quite clearly, South Africa want to give Kallis a resounding farewell and to do that, they need to beat India at this ground, where they have lost their last four Tests.
"To be honest, we didn't talk about the past record. We can't control that. When we arrived here, we heard about Kallis and with how we finished at Wanderers, we were pumped up for this game. To me it doesn't matter if we bat or bowl first, we need to make a good start. And it will be crucial what we do tomorrow morning," Morkel said.
"I hope we don't lose too many overs because of the weather. I hope it is a good Test and a good farewell (for Kallis)," he signed off.