At Port Elizabeth, November 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. Drawn. Toss: India.
Achievements on the field, even Gibbs's 196, were overshadowed by a furore which snowballed into one of the game's biggest crises. It was triggered by the announcement on the final morning of penalties imposed by the referee, Mike Denness, on six Indian players for alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct. The tourists considered them excessive and, in Tendulkar's case, grossly unfair.
India started the final day in some peril - 366 behind with one wicket down batting last. But rather than let their emotions over the row undermine them, they resisted gallantly and, with the weather's assistance, secured a comfortable draw.
South Africa were unchanged, while India discarded two seamers, picked another (Agarkar) and welcomed back the off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh. On the first day, they did not gain as much ground as a side opting to bowl would expect. But, by putting South Africa in, India at least avoided a calamitous start themselves. Only Srinath, who took three wickets in the day and six in the innings, exploited a green pitch under a cloudy sky. Without Gibbs, who batted with fluent authority to complete a century off 167 balls, the day would have been desperately tedious. Of the two partners who stayed with him, Kallis took 70 balls over 24 runs and Dippenaar 138 over 29, batting as if he were a relic of the timeless Durban Test of 1938-39.
Warm sunshine on the first afternoon and a strong wind next morning turned the pitch into a batsman's paradise. Gibbs and Boucher revelled in its splendour to add 80 in 17 overs, until Gibbs was caught at gully, cutting loosely in Tendulkar's first over as he tried to reach a double-hundred. India could have ended the stand 39 runs earlier had Dravid held a top-edged steepler that Boucher hoisted off Harbhajan; 31 at the time, Boucher finished unbeaten on 68 off only 70 balls.
Despite the benign pitch, India contrived to lose half their wickets for 69, including a staunch effort as makeshift opener by Dasgupta, digging in for 60 balls, and a rapid, but none too convincing, 42 in 46 balls by Ganguly. Laxman, in at No. 6 and ninth out for 89, was at the heart of a revival. He began by adding 42 with Sehwag and crowned it with a ninth-wicket stand of 80 with Kumble. In three hours of responsible, enterprising batting, Laxman hit 12 fours before he was lbw playing half forward to Pollock.
That was on the third morning, when South Africa swept away India's last two wickets inside half an hour. Nevertheless, the session belonged to the tourists: Srinath, striking twice with the new ball, and Agarkar, producing a deadly breakback to bowl Gibbs, reduced South Africa to 26 for three. India's resurgence lasted until a circumspect Kallis and a belligerent Pollock came together in an unbroken stand of 94 which stretched into the fourth day, when rain permitted only 25 overs in all. It was during the early stages of this partnership, on the third afternoon, when fieldsmen were clustered round the bat, that Harbhajan, Das, Dasgupta and Sehwag allegedly violated the Code of Conduct by charging at the umpire. The third day was also when Tendulkar supposedly "interfered with the match ball", a charge Denness later explained as deriving from a failure to obtain the umpires' permission to clean mud from the seam.
Pollock's cautious declaration set India a target of 395 in a full day plus 41 overs. But only 18 could be bowled before, predictably, bad light ended play again. When Dasgupta and Dravid batted right through an extended first session on the final day, India looked safe. But Hayward dismissed them both with the second new ball, and Pollock bowled a fiery last spell before bad light brought down the curtain on the cricket. The diplomatic drama was only just beginning.
Man of the Match: H. H. Gibbs
Man of the Series: H. H. Gibbs
Close of play: First day, South Africa 237-5 (Gibbs 155, Pollock 0); Second day, India 182-8 (Laxman 77, Kumble 21); Third day, South Africa 211-5 (Kallis 84, Pollock 38); Fourth day, India 28-1 (Dasgupta 22, Dravid 3).