India beat South Africa in third Test, draw series 1-1

April 13th, 2008 - 9:28 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh
(Night Lead)
Qaiser Mohammad Ali
Kanpur, April 13 (IANS) A rampaging Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag spun India to a series-levelling eight-wicket win over South Africa on an eventful third day of the third and final Test here Sunday. With this win, achieved with two days to spare on an unpredictable pitch at the Green Park Stadium, India drew the series 1-1 after surprisingly losing the second match in Ahmedabad.

Taking full advantage of a pitch that provided uneven bounce and sharp turn, Harbhajan captured four wickets and Sehwag returned his career-best figures of three for 12 to skittle out South Africa for 121 in just 55.5 overs in their second innings - their second lowest total in India.

India were set to score 62 to win and they finished at 64 for two, with Rahul Dravid remaining unbeaten on 18 and Sourav Ganguly 13. Ganguly was adjudged the Man of the Match for his first-innings 87 while Harbhajan won the Man of the Series award for bagging 19 wickets in the three-match series.

South Africa, after winning the toss, scored 265 in their first innings and India replied with 325

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, leading in the absence of an injured Anil Kumble, rotated his bowlers cleverly Sunday to unsettle the batsmen, who found it extremely difficult to survive on the pitch described by South African coach Mickey Arthur as “not ideal for Test cricket”.

Sharp and vicious turns surprised batsmen who needed medical attention a few times as the ball hurt their fingers.

Even as the Test got over, there was talk that the International Cricket Council would take note of the pitch behaviour. Match referee Roshan Mahanama’s report will be crucial in this respect.

There was immense pressure both on the Indian board’s ground and wicket committee as well as the local curator to prepare a pitch that assisted slow bowlers, which is India’s strength.

When India started the final chase, Sehwag (22) and Wasim Jaffer (10) departed for 32 runs on board. But Gangly and Dravid raised 32 runs without being separated and ensure India’s win.

Harbhajan, who had bagged three wickets in the first innings, took another four to finish with seven for 96. Sehwag bagged the crucial wickets of the second-innings’ top scorer and captain Graeme Smith (35, 90 balls, 3×4s) and Jacques Kallis (15) besides the tail-ender Makhaya Ntini, to start South Africa’s slide.

Off-spinner Sehwag dismissed Kallis and Smith in quick succession to reduce South Africa from 27 for one to 72 for four in the second session, between lunch and tea, as the pitch provided more and more awkward bounce than turn.

The first Test in Chennai had ended in a draw while India lost the second Test in Ahmedabad.

India started the day at 288 for nine, with Sreesanth batting on nine and Ishant Sharma yet to score. They batted well to frustrate the bowlers, and after the match South Africa captain Graeme Smith admitted as much. Sreesanth (29) and No. 11 Sharma (14) added 46 priceless runs, which meant that India had taken a lead of 60 runs.

South Africa started their second innings disastrously, losing the wickets of Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla to Sreesanth and Harbhajan with 27 runs on the board. But Smith (35, 90 balls, 3×4s), showing tremendous application and temperament, kept one end going.

Smith, who showed the best temperament, and Jacques Kallis (15, 45 balls, 1×4) tried to revive the innings with their 38-run partnership for the third wicket, but the rampaging Indian pacers and spinners would not let them take their team to safety. Sehwag broke the stand when Kallis tried to defend a ball and Wasim Jaffer snapped him up at the short leg.

Dhoni, leading in a Test for the first time, made frequent bowling changes, juggled Sehwag, Harbhajan, Sreesanth and Sharma and changed their ends to unsettle the batsmen. These moves, made with active assistance from the pitch, had an effect as the South Africa batsmen just could not counter the twin onslaught and succumbed rather meekly.

Another Dhoni move that surprised South Africa was that he opened the bowling with Harbhajan and Ishant Sharma in the second innings. Sreesanth, who would have opened the attack usually, came on as first change. The Indian bowlers made good use of a cracking pitch and the rough patches created by the shoe spikes to gain the upper hand.

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