Bowlers enliven a stalemate
South Africa 510 for 9 dec (Hall 163, de Bruyn 83, Kumble 6-131) and 169 for 4 drew with India 466 (Sehwag 164, Gambhir 96)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
South Africa took the psychological points after the run-fest in the Kanpur Test, which predictably ended in a draw. After keeping the Indians at bay over the first four days, South Africa had the better of the exchanges on the final day as well. First they took six Indian wickets for only 65 runs this morning to bowl them out for 466 and take a first-innings lead of 44. Then the batsmen survived a mini-wobble, ending on 167 for 4, with Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Boeta Dippenaar all getting some useful batting practice before the second Test at Kolkata, which starts on Sunday (Nov 28).
The result of the match was a foregone conclusion, but the last day's play wasn't the boring stalemate that had been anticipated - ten wickets fell in the first two sessions today, after only 13 had fallen on the first four days. Unlike in South Africa's first innings, when the Indian spinners were completely toothless, they asked plenty of questions of South Africa's top order today. There was more bounce and turn on offer, and Murali Kartik, especially, settled into an excellent rhythm. His over-the-wicket line in the first innings denied him the opportunity to attack, but here, he bowled from round the wicket, got drift and spin, and ended with excellent figures of 2 for 17 from 14 overs. For India, though, it only meant that their task of deciding on their bowling combination for the Kolkata Test became slightly more difficult.
Smith and Andrew Hall, the hero of South Africa's first innings, put together 67 without many worries, though Smith was extremely lucky to survive a couple of lbw shouts from Anil Kumble. Then the spinners struck. Hall nicked one off Harbhajan Singh, and Dinesh Karthik, who had a poor day behind the stumps, latched on to this one. Kartik then struck in his first over, trapping Martin van Jaarsveld (13) in front with a sharply turning delivery, and then inducing Smith to push a bat-pad catch to short leg (110 for 3). When Jacques Rudolph failed again, following his first-ball duck with just 3 before edging to the keeper, South Africa had slumped to 115 for 4.
That was as good as it got for India, though, as Kallis and Dippenaar denied them further success, batting out the entire final session, in the process collecting more valuable practice against the Indian spinners.
Earlier, it was the South Africans who enjoyed their time in the field. As on the fourth day, their bowlers bowled a consistent line, but they were helped significantly by the indiscretion of the Indian batsmen. The slide started in the third over of the day. Rahul Dravid added just two to his overnight 52 before reaching out to a widish delivery from Makhaya Ntini and nicking it to the keeper (407 for 5).
Karthik, playing only his second Test, had an opportunity to make a mark as a batsman, but he lasted only four balls, shouldering arms to one from Shaun Pollock that nipped back and trapped him right in front. Ntini's off-stump line proved too good for Kumble, and when VVS Laxman dragged one onto his stumps, India had lost four wickets for 13 in the space of 29 balls, and Ntini suddenly had three in the bag after toiling away without success for two days. Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan stemmed the rot somewhat, adding 36 for the ninth wicket before both fell in quick succession, ending India's innings just 90 minutes into the morning session.
South Africa took the first-innings lead, and by close of play, they had ensured that they would leave Kanpur in a much better frame of mind than when they arrived. Most of the batsmen spent a reasonable amount of time in the middle, and their experiment with Hall as opener met with resounding success - he was later declared Man of the Match. The bowling was a bit of a worry, though, and Robin Peterson may well miss out at Kolkata. But for the moment, Ray Jennings will have every reason to be delighted with the outcome at Kanpur.
S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.