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The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
December 30, 2013
South Africa 500 (Kallis 115, de Villiers 74, Jadeja 6-138) and 59 for 0 beat India 334 (Vijay 97, Pujara 70, Steyn 6-100) and 223 (Rahane 96, Peterson 4-74) by ten wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Match Point - 'Steyn, the best of his time'
South Africa overpowered India by ten wickets in Jacques Kallis' final Test to give one of the greatest of Test careers the perfect end. Kallis will retire satisfied at having been an integral part of a South Africa side who are the undisputed No. 1 in Tests, having lost just one of their previous 25 series stretching back to 2006.
It was a wonderful summer day to sign off. A 40% chance of rain was expected to be one of India's allies on a day that was the biggest challenge for their young batting line-up. Instead, they were greeted by clear blue skies and pleasant sunshine. And their chances worsened dramatically within 15 minutes of the start of play, as Dale Steyn removed their two best batsmen, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, in a fierce spell of fast bowling.
India managed to clear the deficit just before lunch, but South Africa had mopped up five wickets in the first session to put themselves on the verge of a series victory. Though it was the fifth day, the track was still reasonably good for batting, but only Ajinkya Rahane stuck it out with a hugely impressive 96 before becoming the last man out.
A target of 58 proved little challenge to South Africa's openers, who knocked it off in less than 12 overs to end a Durban 'jinx' that lasted since early 2008, with the home side failing to win four previous Tests.
SouthAfrica's dominance began with the first ball of the day itself when Steyn struck a big blow, getting a shortish delivery to rear up to have Kohli caught behind. Kohli couldn't believe the decision, as the ball had brushed his shoulder on the way through to the keeper but he was on his way.
If Kohli couldn't be faulted for his dismissal, very little blame could be attached to Pujara for his exit as well. Steyn produced the ball of the match - a quick delivery that angled in and then nipped away to beat Pujara's attempt at keeping it out and clip the top of offstump. India were left shellshocked by that early burst as Steyn gave another reminder of why he remains the most lethal fast bowler around.
Rohit Sharma had shouldered arms and lost his middle stump first ball in the first innings, but he fared better this time around. There was plenty of chat with a fired-up Steyn, who sledged him with lines like "I've got more runs than you this series," and "You have done nothing in your career." Rohit survived both Steyn's spell and the verbals, but there was no redemption on a disappointing tour for him as he was caught lbw by a ripping incutter from Vernon Philander for 25.
His Mumbai team-mate Rahane, though, has vastly enhanced his reputation on this series. After nearly two years with the Test squad without getting a proper look-in, he has finally got a couple of games on this challenging tour, and he has locked in his place with a bunch of gutsy knocks. There were an array of classic drives in his fighting innings, one of the highlights of which was a gentle straight drive for four off Steyn.
Rahane's defensive solidity was on display as he kept out the hostile South African quicks, again showcasing his temperament. He also showed that he had that vital quality for a No. 6, the ability to bat with the tail as he and the lower order frustrated South Africa for more than an hour after lunch. He was marching towards a maiden Test century, going for his shots - including a seemingly effortless six over point off Philander - before he was bowled for 96.
India's chances had withered long before that. Robin Peterson stuck twice in an over - MS Dhoni chipped a catch to midwicket, to bring back the questions over his ability to bat in away Tests, and Ravindra Jadeja holed out to long-off. India had slumped to 154 for 7. Zaheer Khan, unlike in recent innings, showed some application before falling to a carrom ball that rounded off a great day for Peterson.
South Africa may be the winners, but India have had plenty to gain from the series as well. Widely expected to be thrashed 2-0 on this tour, they showed they could hold their own against the toughest team around. It is a certainly a massive step up from their two previous high-profile overseas series, which ended in disastrous 4-0 losses, something to cheer their fans despite the Durban defeat.
Match Point: 'Steyn turned the series around'
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?