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At Chennai, March 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 2008. Drawn. Toss: South Africa.
Virender Sehwag scored his, and India's, second triple-hundred in Tests to join Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara in one of cricket's most elite lists, and lit up a match that was a statistician's delight but destined to be a draw before a ball was bowled. The Chennai pitch, once firm and sporting, had played slow and low in recent years, and this one proved no different. In sweltering heat, India were not tempted to play an extra fast bowler, and South Africa, lacking quality spin options, turned to the slow left-armer Harris. It consigned the game to be dominated by batsmen.
But Sehwag was made to wait before he could unleash his array of strokes. McKenzie, fresh off a record 415-run opening stand against Bangladesh, resumed his partnership with Smith, who had won the toss. The first day gave a taste of things to come, with India's bowlers struggling to make the red SG ball bounce over waist height once the shine had come off. Smith and McKenzie bedded down, easily blunting the spin threat of Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. Only an uncharacteristically loose shot from Smith, flicking Kumble uppishly to short midwicket, brought the first wicket of the series, with 132 already on the board. The bowlers had little more joy as Amla took over and the runs slowly but surely piled on. McKenzie opened the face of his bat a bit too much to Harbhajan and edged to Dravid at slip when six short of a century, while both Kallis and Prince threw away their wickets as Kumble gave the Indian bowling some semblance of control, but Amla continued in his mildly unattractive yet thoroughly disciplined vein, reaching 159 with a string of partners, before Boucher entertained with 70.
South Africa's 540, scored at a healthy 3.5 an over, left India a mountain to climb. Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer, however, rattled off at four an over, as though it was a club game. India started the third day still 458 behind, but Sehwag came close to blowing the Test wide open, scoring 257 in the day to reduce their deficit to 72, with nine wickets in hand and two days to play. He reached the third-fastest Test double-hundred recorded in balls, 194, and then the fastest triple, from 278; for the first time in Tests, the first and second wickets both put on at least 200. By the close Sehwag had equalled his previous best, 309 against Pakistan in Multan, and he later rated this innings the better one. Multan might be dearer, because it resulted in an Indian victory, but Chennai stood out for the purity of Sehwag's strokeplay and the quality of the attack; moreover, he had spent nearly two days in the field before reaching the crease, and the character he showed set the tone for India's response. His partners, Jaffer and Dravid, were barely noticed, merely keeping the other end up as Sehwag plundered, but the 268- run stand with Dravid was an all-wicket Indian record against South Africa.
The big moment of the fourth day came two minutes before 10 a.m. With a chance to keep the match alive, and a healthy crowd gathered in the hope of witnessing him march towards Lara's Test record 400, Sehwag had advanced to 319. Then Ntini, who had suffered the most at his hands, found the outside edge of the flashing bat, and McKenzie at slip ended the assault after 530 minutes, 304 balls, 42 fours and five sixes. The crowd's disappointment grew as Tendulkar went for a fifth-ball duck, but they lifted themselves to applaud when Dravid, in the course of his 111, completed 10,000 Test runs. The pace began to flag, but even so India scored their 627 at more than four an over.
South Africa were left with a deficit of 87 and four sessions to bat, in which McKenzie made up for his first-innings disappointment. He helped himself to an unbeaten 155 as the Test meandered to a draw.
Man of the Match: V. Sehwag.
Close of play: First day, South Africa 304-4 (Amla 85, de Villiers 10); Second day, India 82-0 (Wasim Jaffer 25, Sehwag 52); Third day, India 468-1 (Sehwag 309, Dravid 65); Fourth day, South Africa 131-1 (McKenzie 59, Amla 35).
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