Second Test

India v South Africa

At Kolkata, November 28, 29, 30, December 1, 2, 2004. India won by eight wickets. Toss: South Africa. Test debut: H. M. Amla.

Harbhajan Singh revisited the scene of his greatest triumph to inspire India to an ultimately comfortable victory, but they were made to toil by a South African side that owed much to the obduracy of Kallis and the tireless efforts of their quicker bowlers. In March 2001, Harbhajan had taken 13 Australian wickets, in a match remembered more for Laxman's glorious 281; this time, his second-innings seven for 87 snuffed out the last South African resistance.

South Africa still had a ray of hope heading into the final day with a lead of 66, and five wickets in hand. But once Harbhajan deceived Kallis in the flight to take a simple return catch, the last glimmer faded. Their cause was not helped by a dubious bat-pad decision against Pollock, after the ball struck his ribcage and then appeared to be caught on the bounce by Gambhir.

Demolition job complete, Harbhajan yielded centre-stage to Kumble, who winkled out the last two batsmen to join Kapil Dev as India's highest Test wicket-taker, with 434 victims. India were left to chase just 117 and despite losing Sehwag early they eased to victory with time to spare.

Sehwag had done his work in the first innings. He helped set the game up for India with a dazzling 88, after South Africa managed just 305 on a placid track. As at Kanpur, his was a virtuoso effort, full of thrilling strokes; Ontong, given the role of premier spinner, suffered most. He conceded 19 in one dramatic over, where a huge leg-before shout was followed by a waspish cover-drive, two biffs over mid-wicket and the deftest of reverse sweeps.

Luckily for South Africa, Ntini zeroed in on Sehwag's discomfort against the short ball, having him caught at slip off a snorter that was shooting straight for the nose. It ended an innings that was once again a cut above any other played, and a total contrast to Kallis's adept effort on the opening day. Kallis had arrived at the crease early, after both Smith - passed fit at the last minute after his chauffeur drove over his foot - and Hall had given the keeper catching practice.

With the other Jacques, Rudolph, crafting a dogged 61, Kallis motored to a 17th Test century. As usual, he was utterly implacable against both pace and spin - driving and cutting with authority and panache after a few ill-judged sweeps early on. But Zaheer Khan bowled Rudolph with one that straightened, and Pathan knocked over Hashim Amla, who looked set for more than 24 on debut: after that Kallis was always waging a lone battle. It ended inexplicably on the second morning when he shouldered arms to the innocuous medium-pace of Ganguly.

South Africa were left 100 short of a par score, and India then overcame the challenge posed by the fiery Ntini and the support seamers. Dravid chiselled out a valuable but scarcely fluent 80 to buttress Sehwag's effort, and the middle order ensured a healthy lead. Despite second-innings resistance from Smith, who played quite beautifully for 71 before Harbhajan snaffled him with a magnificent off-break, India never relinquished their grip.

Later on the fourth day Ganguly copped yet another fine for dissent after a bat-pad spat involving the resolute Kallis. However, such penalties were far from his mind the following afternoon, when India closed a disappointing home season with a victory that provided some balm for the bruising suffered at Australian hands.

Man of the Match: Harbhajan Singh. Man of the Series: V. Sehwag.

© John Wisden & Co