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The Bulletin by Siddarth Ravindran
December 29, 2010
India 205 (Steyn 6-50) and 228 (Laxman 96) beat South Africa 131 (Harbhajan 4-10) and 215 (Sreesanth 3-35, Zaheer 3-57) by 87 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Features : India exorcise demons of 1996
News : Dhoni downplays Kingsmead achievement
Analysis : Famous victory part of a winning habit
Features : Laxman's second-innings act
News : Poor batting cost South Africa - Smith
Analysis : South Africa's Durban blues
Audio/Video: Sanjay Manjrekar: Lively pitches are good for India
Matches: South Africa v India at Durban
Series/Tournaments: India tour of South Africa
India reiterated that they are no longer poor travellers by pulling off a series-levelling win in Durban, the scene of one of their worst Test defeats in 1996. Monday's victory at Kingsmead, after a humiliating loss in Centurion, joined other famous successes over the past decade on some of the world's fastest tracks - Headingley, Jamaica, Nottingham, Johannesburg and Perth.
The match was even at the start of the fourth day but India's bowlers barely sent down a bad ball in the morning session to seize control of the Test. A Sreesanth snorter to Jacques Kallis started South Africa's slide, before two lbws - one a marginal decision and the other a howler, both sure to refuel the UDRS debate - hurt them further. Ashwell Prince tried to resist but India plugged away to remove the tail an hour into the second session and set up a decider in Cape Town next week.
The ebb and flow of the match was matched by Sreesanth's bowling form. The wayward, antic-loving Sreesanth was missing in the morning as he sent down an accurate spell of sustained hostility. The highlight was in the day's seventh over - an unplayable bouncer that reared up sharply and jagged in towards Kallis, who had no way of avoiding it. He jumped and arched his back in an attempt to get out of the way but could only glove it to gully. It was the snorter needed to remove the kingpin of South Africa's batting. There was no over-the-top Sreesanth celebration either, just a fist pump before getting back to business.
That wicket put India slightly ahead, and there was no doubt who the front-runners were when AB de Villiers offered a half-hearted forward defensive against a Harbhajan Singh delivery from round the wicket. He was struck in front of middle, looked lbw and the umpire agreed, though Hawk-Eye suggested the ball would have bounced well over the stumps.
Mark Boucher has, over a decade in international cricket, built his reputation as a scrapper and, with Prince also around, it wasn't yet lights out for South Africa. Boucher, though, made only 1 before he was given lbw to a delivery that was angling across him and comfortably missing off stump .
South Africa had lost three wickets, and there was still no boundary in the morning, a testament to the scarcity of bad deliveries. When the first four did come, from Dale Steyn, it was an edge to third man. Steyn had pinged Zaheer Khan on the helmet with a quick bouncer on Tuesday, and was the target of a string of short balls. After three of those, Zaheer slipped in a fuller delivery, which Steyn duly nicked to slip.
At 155 for 7, with lunch 45 minutes away, the game looked set for a quick finish. Prince and Paul Harris, however, resisted with some dour batting and a couple of confident boundaries from Prince. They saw out the 10 overs to the break but a pumped-up Zaheer, chatting with the batsmen after almost every ball, ended the stand in his first over after the resumption with a peach that clipped Harris' off stump.
Prince and Morne Morkel then stood firm for an hour, reducing the required runs to double digits. India's wait seemed to have ended when Ishant Sharma had Morkel wafting to gully, but that turned out to be his regulation wicket off a no-ball. In his next over, though, Ishant didn't overstep when he found the edge off Morkel to Dhoni. Two balls later, an alert Cheteshwar Pujara threw down the stumps from short leg, catching the No. 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe short, and sparking celebrations. The Indians were ready to grab the stumps as souvenirs, when they realised the third umpire had been called for. The dismissal was confirmed moments later and there was no stopping the celebrations this time.
India came into this Test with their No. 1 status questioned after the clobbering in Centurion and doubts over whether they had the bowling to take 20 wickets. They provided answers to both in Durban, handing South Africa their third straight defeat at the venue.