Harbhajan and the Eden Gardens factor
There's something about Eden Gardens that transforms Harbhajan Singh: this was his seventh Test here, and his match haul of eight wickets not only won India the Test and helped them hang on to the top spot, it also took Harbhajan's tally at the venue to 46 Test wickets, the highest by any bowler here. He went past Anil Kumble's haul of 40 wickets in eight Tests during South Africa's first innings. In was fitting that Harbhajan achieved this feat in the same Test in which VVS Laxman achieved the 1000-run mark at this ground.
Coming into this Test Harbhajan was under immense pressure, but here he got most things right. The South African left-handers, Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy, contributed by misreading his length, but Harbhajan impressed with his control over line and length, especially in the South African second innings. Not only did he take five wickets, he also achieved an amazing economy rate of 1.21, conceding only 59 runs in 48.3 overs. In terms of economy, it's his best effort in an innings in which he's bowled more than two overs. It's also the best economy rate by an Indian bowler who's bowled at least 20 overs in an innings since 2000.
As his pitch map indicates, Harbhajan was on target against both right-handers and left-handers. For the right-handers he pitched most of his deliveries outside off, either turning them in or making them go straight through after pitching. Against the left-handers his round-the-stumps line was very effective, as it brought the lbw into play and also allowed him to beat the batsmen with drift and turn. This was his first five-for since he took 6 for 63 against New Zealand in Hamilton last year, and helped India to their first innings victory against South Africa.
The margin of defeat could have been much worse but for the heroic displays of Hashim Amla, who became only the fifth South African batsman to score a century in each innings of a Test. Surprisingly, all five have achieved this feat overseas. (The current Indian coach had achieved it at the same venue 14 years ago.)
Amla finished the series with 490 runs, which is the sixth-highest by any batsman in a two-Test series. Sanath Jayasuriya leads with a tally of 571 against India at home in 1997. In terms of averages, though, Amla is in second place: he was dismissed just once in the series, giving him a colossal average of 490, next only to Wally Hammond's average of 563 in New Zealand in 1933. In only six Tests in India, Amla has already racked up 823 runs, which is more than half the runs he has scored in 24 Tests in South Africa.
Amla's was a monumental defensive effort, best illustrated by a break-up of the 394 balls he faced. In the two Tests, he batted a total of 1402 minutes, which is 23 hours and 22 minutes.
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Amla's innings ensured South Africa's second innings lasted 131.3 overs, which is their second-highest in the second innings in the subcontinent. Sadly for them, it still wasn't enough to stop the Indian juggernaut at Eden Gardens - since 2000, they've won four out of six Tests, and drawn the other two.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo