When SA’s dogged best wasn’t good enough
Eventually, the Test finished on expected lines. India won by 337 runs to win the Mahatma Gandhi-Nelson Mandela Freedom series 3-0. The huge victory margin may suggest that it was a stroll in the park for India; it wasn’t. Yes, India were never in danger of losing the match; after setting South Africa a huge 481-run target, they could have only won the match. Or, South Africa could have salvaged a highly improbable draw on a challenging wicket.
Against all odds, the South Africans came close to drawing the game before their gallant effort petered out in the final session of the final day. The Proteas lost their last five wickets for just seven runs, bringing an end to their miserable run in the four-Test rubber, which they had already conceded to the hosts in Nagpur.
But till the time AB de Villiers was around (43 off 297 balls) — and he was around for a long, long time — the Indian team looked worried. Until tea, de Villiers looked very much in control and set to script one of the greatest escapes in the history of the game.
De Villiers blocked everything the Indian bowler threw at him even as the possibility of the match being called off early because of the fading light grew brighter. But once R Ashwin (5/61) had him caught at leg slip by Ravindra Jadeja in the second over after tea, with the scorecard reading 136/7, South Africa’s hopes of salvaging a draw went up in smoke. Having taken tea at 136/5, they folded up after adding just seven runs more to the total.
South Africa gave in after playing out a whopping 143.1 overs in the fourth innings on a difficult track. A total of 89 maiden overs were bowled, and India’s two specialist spinners, Ashwin (49.1) and Jadeja (46), sent down 95.1 overs between them over the last two days. Pacers Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, too, bowled 46 overs to break the South African resistance.
Ashwin, Jadeja do it again
As has been the case in the entire Test series, Ashwin and Jadeja proved to be the nemesis of South Africa in the last Test as well. Together, they picked up seven wickets, with Ashwin claiming another five-wicket haul (5/61). Ashwin was adjudged man of the series for his 31 wickets in the series; Ajinkya Rahane was declared man of the match for his two centuries.
Much of the credit for breaking the South African resistance should go to pacer Umesh Yadav. He provided the crucial breakthrough when Dane Vilas and de Villiers had frustrated the Indian attack and victory was gradually slipping out of sight. It took a stunning reverse-swinging scorcher from him to beat Vilas and shatter his stumps. This opened up the floodgates as Ashwin got de Villiers in the very next over, and Yadav removed Kyle Abbott (0) and Dane Piedt (2) in successive overs. Ashwin, quite befittingly, picked up the last wicket, Morne Morkel (2), to spark the celebrations in the Indian camp.
Earlier in the morning, it was the key wicket of Amla that rejuvenated the Indians after toiling for 72 overs the previous day. Jadeja got him with the new ball in the day’s 13th over. Amla couldn’t quite get to the pitch of the ball that was angled in, and turned just enough after pitching to beat the bat and kiss the outside of the off-stump.
The wickets of Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy (0) put India on the pathto victory, which they duly achieved after overcoming a stiff resistance from de Villiers.
India 1st innings 334
SA 1st innings 121
India 2nd innings 267/5 dec
SA 2nd innings
H Amla b Jadeja 25
AB de Villiers c Jadeja b Ashwin 43
F du Plessis lbw b Jadeja 10
JP Duminy lbw b Ashwin 0
D Vilas b Yadav 13
K Abbott b Yadav 0
D Piedt c Saha b Yadav 1
M Morkel b Ashwin 2
I Tahir not out 0
Extras: (b 8, lb 3) 11
Total: (all out; 143.1 overs) 143
Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-49, 3-76, 4-111, 5-112, 6-136, 7-136, 8-140, 9-143
I Sharma 20-12-23-0
R Ashwin 49.1-26-61-5
R Jadeja 46-33-26-2
U Yadav 21-16-9-3
S Dhawan 3-1-9-0
M Vijay 2-0-2-0
V Kohli 1-1-0-0
C Pujara 1-0-2-0
Man of the match: A Rahane
Man of the series: R Ashwin