3rd Test

South Africa v India, 2010-11

Anand Vasu

At Cape Town, January 2-6, 2011. Drawn. Toss: India.


Jacques Kallis flicks one to the leg side, South Africa v India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 4th day, January 5, 2011
Jacques Kallis, yet again, was unstoppable © Getty Images
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Tour and tournament reports : South Africa v India, 2010-11
Players/Officials: Harbhajan Singh | Jacques Kallis | Sreesanth
Series/Tournaments: India tour of South Africa

When the First Test ended, South Africa were speaking enthusiastically about winning the series 3-0. After the stunning reversal at Durban, India piped up, renewing hopes of breaking their jinx by winning their first Test series in South Africa. At picturesque Newlands, neither team could force the issue in the end, leaving the series tied at 1-1. For India, the result was acceptable on one level, as it was the first time they had come to South Africa and not lost. But Dhoni conceded that it was also a golden opportunity missed, as the core members of this team - Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Zaheer Khan - were unlikely to be around for the next such tour.

When the game began, with Dhoni winning the toss for a change and deciding to bowl, India were presented with their first challenge. In overcast conditions, and with grey clouds hanging around for most of the first day, their fast bowlers needed to lift themselves and pile the pressure on, but they were found wanting. Zaheer, Sharma and Sreesanth all threatened occasionally, but never consistently, and once again it was Kallis who emphasised his immense value with an innings of astute judgment and eyeball-grabbing technical poise.

After the opening batsmen were dealt with fairly swiftly, Amla came at the Indians, attacking with fluency. He and Kallis added 72 for the third wicket, before an ambitious pull resulted in Amla's downfall. While Dhoni's bowl-first approach was fully justified, conditions were not nearly as helpful as they had been at Centurion or Durban, and when South Africa ended the first day with 232 for four they had done more than enough to negate the disadvantage of losing the toss.

The second day dawned bright and sunny, and the pitch temporarily quickened, benefiting from the baking effect of a hot summer's day. Sreesanth, marshalling his talent productively, asked many questions, but none was difficult enough to trip Kallis up. He overcame the opposition and the pitch to collect his 39th Test hundred, one he would later rate as among his best efforts technically. Kallis reaffirmed his position in the sport's pantheon, and soaked up the admiration of an adoring home crowd. But, more importantly, his 161 - in 459 minutes, from 291 balls with 19 fours - bound the innings together, pushing the total to a healthy 362.

India needed to show similar resolution to stay in touch, but what followed was the now-familiar top-order wobble, with Sehwag falling to yet another poor stroke and Dravid running himself out to make it 28 for two. Gambhir and Tendulkar were asked to repair the damage, and it was only a generous slice of luck and some dogged determination that helped them move towards safety, ending the day with 142 for two. Gambhir was dropped twice, and Tendulkar was put down at second slip by de Villiers: each time the unfortunate bowler was Tsotsobe.

The third-day contest was reduced largely to the match-up between Tendulkar and Steyn, whose sustained, high-quality swing bowling at great pace was a feature of the series. Getting the ball to move from lines that did not allow the batsmen the luxury of shouldering arms, Steyn induced so much playing and missing that he was very unlucky not to end with more wickets in the series than he did (21). But Tendulkar, taking a leaf out of Kallis's book, refused to be perturbed by several close shaves, and negotiated each ball on merit. His 51st century lifted the total towards 364, aided by a stand of 176 with Gambhir and a late flourish from Harbhajan Singh. India led by two, and the match was reduced to a second-innings shoot-out.

Harbhajan set to work on a surface that was starting to show signs of wear and tear, and exploited the occasionally variable bounce that the rough afforded, pegging South Africa back to 64 for four to raise hopes of an unlikely Indian win.

But, once again, Kallis towered above all around him, neither yielding nor taking a backward step, and forced India to work exceptionally hard to earn each wicket. At 130 for six, when Boucher joined Kallis, India were within one wicket of the tail and clear favourites. But the quick bowlers, especially Sharma, bowled into Boucher's pads, and he raced to a half-century, adding 103 with Kallis, whose 109 - characterised by his decisive reverse-sweeping against Harbhajan - made him the first South African to score two centuries in a Test twice. It was his 40th Test hundred, putting him ahead of Ricky Ponting and behind only Tendulkar.

India were left with 90 overs to survive for the draw, as they were never likely to score quickly enough to reach their target of 340. Harbhajan had been India's workhorse, sending down 38 overs for seven for 120, figures which only he himself had bettered for India against South Africa.

On the final day, Sehwag - restricted by a shoulder injury which saw him miss the ensuing one-day matches - completed a disappointing series (only 144 runs from six innings) when he outside-edged to first slip, whereupon India slammed down the shutters. Gambhir survived for more than four and a half hours for 64, while Tendulkar was uncharacteristically restrained in making 14 from 91 balls. When the captains shook hands little more than an hour into the final session, India had reached 166 for three at a shade above two an over.

Man of the Match: J. H. Kallis. Man of the Series: J. H. Kallis. Close of play: First day, South Africa 232-4 (Kallis 81, Prince 28); Second day, India 142-2 (Gambhir 65, Tendulkar 49); Third day, South Africa 52-2 (Petersen 22, Amla 0); Fourth day, South Africa 341.

© John Wisden & Co.