Harbhajan rocks South Africa on a wearing pitch

South Africa 305 and 172 for 5 (Smith 71, Kallis 52*, Harbhajan 4-58) lead India 411 by 66 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

After India built a 105-run lead, the spinners got to work on South Africa's inexperienced line-up and made an Indian victory a more likely proposition as the day wore on. Barring Graeme Smith, the top order struggled to smother the considerable assistance that Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble extracted from the pitch. They reduced South Africa to 147 for 5, of which Harbhajan had four wickets. However, Jacques Kallis applied himself and was unbeaten on 52, and his presence will give his team comfort as the game enters its final day. At the close, South Africa were 172 for 5, only 66 in front.

A positive start by Smith and Andrew Hall preceded a spate of dismissals engineered by Harbhajan. He cleverly mixed the doosra with offbreaks, and the batsmen failed to read him. Hall attempted a sweep and gloved one to the wicketkeeper after a valuable opening stand of 77. Runs had come quickly till then, as South Africa aimed to wipe out India's lead as quickly as possible. In his next over, Harbhajan fooled Jacques Rudolph with one that turned in from outside off, leaving him bemused. The other end held no respite. Kumble landed plenty of deliveries in the rough, from where they shot off at troublesome angles. After several unsuccessful shouts for leg-before, he finally induced an edge from Boeta Dippenaar and watched it rebound off Dinesh Karthik's knee to Virender Sehwag at second slip.

Smith had been bothered by Kumble, but fell to Harbhajan, edging an offbreak to first slip after an aggressive 71. He used the sweep well and looked to play both spinners to leg - an approach the others used extensively after his departure. Against the fast bowlers Smith was more commanding. He flicked Irfan Pathan to the boundary disdainfully, and was equally comfortable against Zaheer Khan. His stand with Kallis was just reaching worrying proportions for the Indians when Harbhajan struck.

With Smith gone, the Indians sensed more easy pickings. The fielders came in, the crowd was on edge, and the pitch was affording plenty of turn. Under these conditions, the debutant Hashim Amla entered ... and left soon afterwards, when a bat-pad appeal was erroneously upheld. Kallis - fortunate to be there himself after a similar bat-pad went undetected when he had 2 - and Zander de Bruyn played cautiously after that, and stuck to nudging the ball around for ones and twos. They realised, as India had in the morning, that every run could make a difference on this pitch.

Karthik and Pathan and the rest of the lower order had frustrated the South Africans earlier. Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini bowled spiritedly for almost the entire session and prised out three wickets, including Karthik for 46, but it used up a lot of time. Karthik had led India's campaign to extend the lead on the third day, and this morning expectations lay on his and Pathan's shoulders. But both fell in quick succession.

Then Harbhajan and Zaheer prolonged South Africa's agony in the field, adding 24 in 51 balls, with Harbhajan often resorting to wild swipes and other befuddling strokes. It all ended when Justin Ontong pitched his first ball well outside leg stump, and Harbhajan reverse-swept it to Dippenaar at point.

After three days of largely tepid cricket, this Test has finally sprung to life. Much of this action had to do with the pitch, which provided increasing assistance to spinners. With India having far superior firepower in that department, they will be favourites to wrap up the match, and the series, tomorrow.

Rahul Bhatia is on the staff of Cricinfo.