India complete comfortable eight-wicket win
India 411 and 120 for 2 (Dravid 47*, Tendulkar 32*) beat South Africa 305 and 222 (Kallis 55, Harbhajan 7-87) by 8 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India concluded a dour series with a victory by eight wickets at Eden Gardens. Though the required 117 runs were achieved comfortably in the end, the favourable series result was largely due to three sessions of guileful bowling on a helpful track by Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, who persevered tirelessly through both matches before finally hitting pay-dirt yesterday and today. Harbhajan picked up 7 for 87, while Kumble equalled Kapil Dev's Indian record of 434 Test wickets, in 41 fewer matches.
Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar then guided India to their second Test win of the season with a stand that made heavy work of the inevitable. Pads were stuck out dangerously to South Africa's part-time spinners - who turned the ball sharply - but both batsmen were loth to risk an attacking approach. However, Dravid was quick to dismiss loose offerings while Tendulkar protected his wicket steadfastly. But at the end, when the target was down to single figures, it was Tendulkar who cut free with a couple of fours off Justin Ontong. Dravid remained unbeaten on 47.
Virender Sehwag's early dismissal did not rock the boat. After he guided Makhaya Ntini to Graeme Smith at slip, Gautam Gambhir and Dravid squirted balls between the infielders for runs. Both batsmen were relaxed during their stay, and Gambhir, in particular, appeared at ease when Shaun Pollock, who had previously troubled him, came on, striking him gloriously through cover. He was dismissed padding at a legbreak from Jacques Rudolph that struck him in front of the stumps (60 for 2). But by then South Africa's cause was lost, even though the spinners extracted appreciable bounce and turn from the pitch.
The day belonged to the two men India rely on most at home. Harbhajan and Kumble continued their work from yesterday and struck down South Africa for the addition of 50 runs. In tandem, they bowled out the entire side, contributing 64.4 of the 74.4 overs sent down by India.
Harbhajan continued his feverish affair with Eden Gardens. He first removed Jacques Kallis for 55 and then struck twice more. It was his fourth five-wicket haul in five innings here. Kallis had battled to 52 yesterday, but in Harbhajan's second over of the day, he patted one back to the bowler, who accepted the simple catch and disbelievingly turned to the umpire and appealed. A few overs later, Pollock stuck his pad out at one that missed his bat and glove, and carried to a sprawling Gambhir at short leg. The appeal for the catch was upheld. Daryl Harper, the umpire, struck again two deliveries later when Justin Ontong swept, and the ball popped off his forearm to Dinesh Karthik. Then Thami Tsolekile played around a Kumble delivery and was bowled (194 for 9). After 28 valuable runs were added, Makhaya Ntini edged to Dravid, presenting Kumble with his record-equalling wicket.
India were expected to win the series, albeit a tad earlier than the second-last session of the tour. On this pitch, against bowlers of the calibre of Harbhajan and Kumble, South Africa's batting line-up stood little chance. For a team beleaguered by poor form, this victory will bring India temporary respite from scrutiny.
Rahul Bhatia is on the staff of Cricinfo.