India fight back after Petersen, Amla tons

KOLKATA: Debutant Alviro Petersen and Hashim Amla smashed fluent centuries for South Africa before India hit back strongly in a dramatic start to the second and final cricket Test on Sunday.

Petersen made 100 and Amla scored 114 to lift the Proteas to 218-1, before India ripped through the rest of the batting to leave the tourists on 266-9 by stumps on the opening day at the Eden Gardens.

Left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh finished with three wickets each as the tourists lost seven wickets for 32 runs after tea when bad light halted play nine overs early.

India, who lost the first Test in Nagpur by an innings and six runs, need a win to square the series and retain their number one position in the official Test rankings.

"All credit to the bowlers for turning it around," said India's South African coach Gary Kirsten. "They showed tremendous resilience."

Kirsten was confident the Indian batsmen will put up a big score on the second day since there was nothing in the wicket to assist the bowlers.

"We didn't feel it took too much turn, and we didn't feel that it offered that much assistance to the seamers either," he said.

"There is a long way to go in the Test, but it looks a fairly good wicket at the moment. There was a lot less grass on the wicket before the start today than it was yesterday."

The tourists, who need a draw to take over from India at the top, were well-placed as Petersen and Amla put on 209 for the second wicket after skipper Graeme Smith was removed in the day's third over.

Smith, who chose to play in the crucial Test despite a fractured finger, made four when he was bowled by Zaheer.

Petersen, handed a Test cap at the last minute after wicket-keeper Mark Boucher was ruled out with back spasms, responded with a superb century studded with 16 boundaries.

The 29-year-old from Port Elizabeth became only the third South African after Andrew Hudson and Jacques Rudolph to score a Test century on debut.

"We can definitely bounce back," Petersen said, adding the wicket will help the South African fast bowlers.

"We saw Ishant Sharma bowling a decent spell of short balls. Even after 40 overs, the ball was still carrying through nicely, so it would be interesting to see our fast bowlers on it.

"It's not a normal Indian wicket from what I understand of it. It's also not that easy to bat on. There's a lot of cricket still to be played."

Amla followed his unbeaten 253 in the first Test with another three-figure knock, his ninth in 43 matches. He hit 14 boundaries and a six.

Zaheer gave the hosts some respite by removing both batsmen on either side of the tea interval to catches by Indian captain and wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Harbhajan then dismissed Jacques Kallis for 10 as Venkatsai Laxman ran back from slip to hold a skier.

In his next over, Harbhajan trapped Ashwell Prince and Jean-Paul Duminy leg-before off successive deliveries, but Dale Steyn denied the bowler a hat-trick.

AB de Villiers was run out by a direct throw from Zaheer as he backed up for a sharp single, leaving South Africa tottering at 254-7.