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At Ahmedabad, April 3, 4, 5, 2008. South Africa won by an innings and 90 runs. Toss: India.
South Africa arrived in India with a compact squad of 14, smaller than the home team's, and by the time the Second Test came around they wore a settled, contented look while India battled with injury and worried about the conditions. A hot summer in Ahmedabad meant that grass had to be left on the pitch to bind the surface; the curator, former Test cricketer Dhiraj Parsana, insisted he could not remove it without taking the top off. He held his ground, and India won a toss they might have been better off losing. They chose to bat. With Tendulkar out through an aggravated groin strain, the pressure was on the remaining batsmen to step up and deliver: what unfolded was their collective brain-freeze, which made some of the best batsmen in the world look like amateurs against a disciplined and imaginative attack.
Steyn and Ntini relished the extra bounce and lateral movement the pitch offered, and tore into the Indian batting. Ntini opened the door, having Wasim Jaffer caught at first slip, then Steyn produced an in-ducker that Sehwag dragged on to his stumps. Laxman shouldered arms to Ntini and lost his off stump; Ganguly, in two minds whether to play or leave, directed the ball into his wicket; and, when Dravid was beaten by a ball from Steyn that pitched in line and shaped away to shave off stump, it was 53 for five. Morkel joined in, and Steyn returned to polish off the tail as India were knocked over for 76, just one run more than their lowest total at home, against West Indies at Delhi in 1987-88. The innings lasted only 20 overs in all, the shortest ever in a Test on the subcontinent, and India had given up the game on a platter.
When South Africa replied - on a pitch that was easing up, against fast bowlers who did not have the same bite - the runs came easily. Barring Prince, every batsman got a start, and Kallis helped himself to his 30th Test hundred, one ahead of Bradman and in joint sixth place on the all-time list. De Villiers was the most fluent, tackling pace and spin with aplomb to make a maiden double-century, surprisingly South Africa's first against India; he added 256, another South African record against India, with Kallis. When Smith declared overnight, 418 ahead, they had done enough to ensure they would not need to bat again.
While India's middle order applied themselves in a much-improved show, the pressure of being so far behind told, and South Africa chipped away at the wickets. Only a fighting 87 from Ganguly, showing strong technique and sound judgment, and a battling fifty from Dhoni, pushed India to 328. The defeat, by an innings and 90 runs inside three days, was their worst at home in nearly 50 years, since Australia won by an innings and 127 at Delhi in 1959-60. Steyn ended the game with a haul of eight for 114, but was beaten to the match award by de Villiers.
"This was the perfect Test match for us," said Smith. "This is a very balanced side. We've had some tough tours of the subcontinent but we're better for it. For the first time, I have a bowling line-up that can do well out here and I'm most comfortable with this side." What he did not know was that another three-day Test awaited in Kanpur, in completely different conditions.
Man of the Match: A. B. de Villiers.
Close of play: First day, South Africa 223-4 (Kallis 60, de Villiers 59); Second day, South Africa 494-7 (de Villiers 217, Harris 9).