Kallis stars as teams scrap for advantage
India 142 for 2 (Gambhir 65*, Tendulkar 49*) trail South Africa 362 (Kallis 161, Amla 59, Sreesanth 5-114) by 220 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Jacques Kallis produced the innings of the series to prevent India from taking a grip on the deciding Test at Newlands. His 39th Test century, which had shepherded South Africa out of difficult conditions on the first day and helped them survive a stern examination against the second new ball today, was a lesson in tight defensive technique. It was also an exhibition on how to bat with the tail, and score abundantly while you're at it. Kallis dragged South Africa beyond 300 under trying circumstances, for at one stage Sreesanth had threatened to skittle them for fewer, and scored the bulk of the 79 runs he added with the last two batsmen, prolonging India's time in the field.
Kallis' innings grew in value during the course of India's reply. Like South Africa, India also lost two wickets early - Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid - as Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel hustled with seam, steep bounce and that extra bit of pace, which can make the difference when a pitch is easing out. India could have been in further strife but Lonwabo Tsosobe, the most unheralded of the pace attack, had three edges dropped. Gautam Gambhir, who sat out at Durban because of a hand injury, used his two reprieves to compile a half-century that was edgy in phases, while Sachin Tendulkar batted solidly apart from his one let-off to lead India slowly, inch by inch, towards relative comfort. They batted with extreme caution through the final session, taking India to 142 for 2, trailing by 220 with eight first-innings wickets in hand.
The second day had begun in contrast to the first, with an azure sky replacing the grey of the opening day, and burst into life as soon as MS Dhoni handed the second new ball to Sreesanth. He struck consecutive blows in his first over, bowling Ashwell Prince through the bat-pad gap and getting Mark Boucher caught behind with the next ball, and South Africa had soon lost 51 for 4 on the second morning.
Sreesanth troubled Kallis as well with balls that swung and seamed away. Kallis countered, though, punching powerfully to the long-on boundary and whipping through midwicket when the lengths were too full. He had begun the day on 81 and those boundaries took him to 99, but he watched Dale Steyn fend a short ball from Zaheer to the slip cordon before he had the strike again. And when he did, Kallis flicked Sreesanth to fine leg to bring up an invaluable century, in the process drawing level with Ricky Ponting.
When Morne Morkel also fell cheaply, giving Sreesanth his third five-wicket haul, the responsibility of prolonging the innings was now Kallis' and his task got harder when an attempted pull strained his side. He winced as he held his rib cage with a hand that was already bruised, and got on with the job.
Kallis had support from Paul Harris and did not farm strike during a 27-run partnership for the ninth wicket, which took South Africa past 300. That association ended when Ishant bounced Harris from round the wicket and the defensive fend ended in leg slip's hands. With only Tsotsobe remaining, Kallis dominated both the strike and the attack. South Africa scored 103 in the first session.
Kallis resumed after lunch by pulling a 116-kph short ball from Sreesanth to the boundary. He would block the first few balls of an over and slam boundaries off the last deliveries, when the field came in to try and deny him singles. Consecutive square-driven fours off the last two balls of a Sreesanth over took Kallis past 150, and India's frustration grew when Tendulkar fumbled the first ball of the next to let Tsotsobe off strike. This routine played out a couple of times before Kallis chased and edged Zaheer, falling for 161. The Cape Town crowd gave its hero a rousing ovation as he walked off after a job supremely well done.
Kallis was nursing his strained side in the dressing room when Sehwag, having driven Steyn to the cover boundary the previous ball, mis-timed a drive towards extra cover, where Graeme Smith dived forward to take a low catch. Gambhir could have been dismissed on 10 but he watched his edge get dropped by Alviro Petersen at gully. South Africa were soon celebrating, though, for Dravid had risked a single on the dropped catch. AB de Villiers pounced on the stray ball, slid, turned quickly and hit the stumps at the batsman's end. Dravid did not sprint, he did not run in a straight line, he did not dive and he did not wait for the third umpire's decision.
India were 45 for 2 at the start of the final session, and Gambhir and Tendulkar batted with determination. Tendulkar was let off on 8, when a thick edge off Tsotsobe flew high towards third slip. Ashwell Prince jumped but didn't go for the catch. Morkel tested Gambhir with deliveries that rose from a good length. One crashed into his unprotected ribs and had Gambhir wincing in pain.
Tendulkar then flicked Morkel in his compact style to bring up the 50-run partnership but shortly afterwards, on 24, he survived a close lbw shout against Harris as he missed the steer to square leg. A ball later, he skipped out and drove fluently to the cover boundary. Gambhir brought up his own fifty with a flick off Tsotsobe to the boundary. Soon after, on 60, he was dropped at second slip by South Africa's best fielder - de Villiers - with Tsotsobe groaning in frustration.
India's focus then shifted to survival and the run-rate decreased steadily as Tendulkar and Gambhir blocked and left outside off stump. They scored 93 runs in the final session but the real prize was that no wickets were lost.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at Cricinfo