At Durban, December 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 2006. South Africa won by 174 runs. Toss: South Africa. Test debut: M. Morkel.
South Africa's desperation to make amends for the humiliation of the previous Test was evident throughout this one. Although more than 100 overs were lost to the bad light which often characterises the Kingsmead Christmas, they scraped home with barely ten minutes to spare before grey cloud and drizzle would have ended the match for good.
Prince made up for the disappointment of his near-miss at the Wanderers by crafting a fine century - his fifth in 25 Tests - to guide South Africa to 328, a par score on a pitch which offered a little to everyone. Then Tendulkar, dropped by Smith at slip when 21, maintained his record of having scored at least one Test half-century every year since 1992 with a workmanlike 63, while Laxman was again sensibly ponderous in accumulating an unbeaten 50. However, India struggled overall, making batting look harder than necessary, and the eventual deficit of 88 would have been even greater but for some breezy late hitting.
Nel and Ntini were both disciplined and penetrative, while Pollock was parsimony personified, but it was Morne Morkel, the 22-year-old Titans fast bowler, who really caught the eye, with an incisive third spell which brought him three quick wickets. Tall and rangy, with an easy action, Morkel - whose brother Albie has played for South Africa's one-day team - made life difficult for all the batsmen with the extra bounce he was able to extract from the pitch. South Africa were batting again, 88 ahead, when the third day was shortened by around 40 minutes because a power cut knocked out the floodlights, which had been turned on to illuminate an already grey afternoon.
Smith ended a run of low scores with a belligerent 58, and his opening stand with de Villiers laid a good foundation as South Africa - lacking Kallis, who missed the match with a sore back - looked to set an imposing fourth-innings target. Sreesanth intervened with three quick wickets but Pollock ruthlessly ended any Indian hopes with an innings as brave as it was effective. Unafraid to go aerial, he attacked at every opportunity, even though the lead was only 228 when he came in, with just five wickets left. As ever, Pollock's cover-drives were crisper than fresh lettuce, and his square cuts and pulls also left the fielders with no reason to move. After Hall had helped Pollock put on 70, Morkel's batting was a minor revelation, allowing a declaration that offered India 354 in 146 overs. This was generous on the face of it, but actually less so: Smith had guessed how many overs would be lost to the weather, and he got it right. Just. He was greatly helped by Ntini, who bowled superbly. Not too worried about pace, since line and length were sufficient, he vacuumed up the first five wickets during an exceptionally shrewd spell. Sehwag, driving at a full and wide delivery, as the South Africans had planned, was the first to go. Dravid was comprehensively beaten - so comprehensively, in fact, that he actually missed his "nick" to the keeper - but there was little doubt about Tendulkar's lbw and none about Ganguly's nervous prod to gully. Dhoni again counter-attacked, but the final act was all about the swirling clouds and the clock. Sreesanth was struck on the arm by Ntini in the dying moments, and spent an age receiving treatment as the gloom gathered. Umpires Asad Rauf and Ian Howell (subbing for Mark Benson, taken to hospital with heart palpitations, which led to a minor operation) intervened in an attempt to keep the match moving. Sreesanth, meanwhile, was bidding for an Oscar with his wide-eyed glaring in the gloaming. But it was Sreesanth himself who provided Smith with "one of the most emotional wins of my career" when he was given out, caught off his own shoulder rather than that of his bat, just as safety loomed.
Man of the Match: M. Ntini.
Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency