India not only avoided the ignominy of a first whitewash in South Africa but maintained their unbeaten record at the Wanderers Stadium with a come-from-behind 63-run victory on another eventful day.
For almost two sessions of fourth day's play here on Saturday, South Africa were in control of the proceedings with both overnight batsmen â€“ Hashim Amla (52) and Dean Elgar â€“ keeping the Indian attack at bay. The Indian pacemen, all fire and brimstone on Friday evening when they left the South Africans worrying more about their safety than their wickets, appeared less dangerous as Amla and Elgar showed great grit and guts to frustrate the tourists.
Cautious to begin with, the duo found ways to gather runs slowly but steadily and the scoring rate only increased as the play progressed. Though the odd delivery did surprise the batsmen, the Indian attack, as a whole, looked a little flatter and running out of ideas. The search for the elusive breakthrough finally ended when Ishant Sharma dismissed the productively pugnacious Amla just before tea. And as it is always in these types of pitches, one success led to the other and well before the conclusion of the extended day's play, India were celebrating their victory, signing off the three-Test series with a 1-2 scoreline.
Mohammad Shami (5/28) continued his second innings heroics, bagging his best returns in an innings. Unlike in the first innings, the right-arm quick bowled with discipline and fire to reap rich rewards.
Elgar, who looked the most vulnerable of South African batsmen on Friday, carried the bat through to remain unbeaten on 86 (240b, 9x4, 1x6) and carried the home hopes before it all got extinguished after Shami had Lungi Ngidi caught behind, which was confirmed on India's review. Once again, it was a concerted effort from the Indian attack, hunting their preys like a pack of hungry wolves.
Ishant Sharma had bowled beautifully in the morning session without any commensurate reward. In his 10th over and innings' 53, he had Amla edge one to first slip but it fell short of a diving Cheteshwar Pujara. The next ball was full and on middle and leg that invited a flick from Amla but Hardik Pandya was positioned correctly at mid-wicket to pouch the offer out of thin air.
The Indians were more relieved than elated at the hard-earned wicket. By the time he departed, though, Amla had brought South Africa more towards their target of 241 than they looked like achieving it on the third day when the ball was doing so much. He was given a rousing send-off by a sizable Wanderers crowd which gave an even louder welcome as another batsman of equal class â€“ AB de Villiers -- walked out to the middle.
All of a sudden, the pitch seemed to have regained its spitefulness and the batsmen began to poke and miss, fend or duck at awkwardly bouncing deliveries. One such delivery from Jasprit Bumrah consumed de Villiers who edged to Ajinkya Rahane at gully after the back-of-a-length ball kicked up more than he expected.
Two wickets in quick succession brought India right back into the game as South Africa left for tea at 136 for three, needing another 105 runs to deny India a rare win. The post-tea session was a breeze for India as the pacers struck in tandem. While Shami struck at regular intervals from one end to return an impressive last spell of 3.3-0-10-4, Bumrah (2/57) and Ishant (2/31) lent able support, not letting the pressure go off.
The first session went South Africa's way with both Amla and Elgar denying India any success. The awkward bounce was conspicuous by its absence but the ball still seamed and overcast conditions aided some swing. The batsmen had to show great application to come through the session that started an hour behind the schedule due to morning showers. The home hopes rose after that gritty display but India turned it around in admirable fashion in the end.
DH News Service