India v South Africa, 2015-16
Wisden's review of the fourth Test, India v South Africa, 2015-16
At Delhi, December 3-7, 2015. India won by 337 runs. Toss: India.
South Africa sensed a real chance of consolation, if not redemption, when the offspinner Dane Piedt, in his first Test of the series, bowled with the precision and patience of India's slow men to claim four wickets before tea on the first day. By then - with Abbott, also restored to the side, helping out - India were 139 for six. But, without the injured Dale Steyn to attack the tail, India were slowly able to rebuild. Rahane received proactive support from Jadeja and Ashwin, who was dropped by Amla at slip on 14 en route to a half-century. Ashwin hung around while 136 were added, and India's eventual
total looked about that many above par on a track which, while less spiteful than Mohali and Nagpur, also helped the spinners.
Rahane's delightful century - the first of the series - was memorable for his ability to deflate any pressure the South Africans were able to apply. His four sixes were not the result of bad deliveries, but a desire to assert his authority when necessary. Each time the momentum of the game tilted back towards India. Jadeja's unrelenting accuracy and unreadable changes of pace then earned him five wickets, but Yadav and Ashwin might easily have collected more than two apiece on another day, such was South Africa's disarray. Kohli waived the follow-on, despite a lead of 213, and when his side then slipped to 57 for four some local pessimists - and others of a delusional disposition - contemplated a twist. It could have been worse: two overs later
Kohli was given out caught behind, but Imran Tahir had overstepped. Replays subsequently confirmed there was no contact between bat and ball, which may also explain why Kohli escaped sanction for an obvious display of dissent.
His subsequent path towards an apparently inevitable hundred was cut short at 88 by an Abbott inswinger, but Kohli allowed Rahane to complete a memorable Test with a second century before a declaration which represented the balance of the series: chasing 481 with around 160 overs left, South Africa had the option neither of victory nor a draw. Still, they made an admirable effort to stave off defeat, taking bloody-mindedness to another level. Dull Test cricket in the 1950s and '60s was boring because it moved at a glacial pace when there was actually something to play for. This was entirely different, and became utterly absorbing in a macabre yet impressive way. On the fourth evening, with South Africa 72 for two after 72 overs, Yadav was almost at a loss for words: "Defending is one thing, but when they are blocking half-volleys and full tosses, that is something we have never seen before."
The innings contained the three slowest partnerships in Test history of over 200 balls. Bavuma, promoted to open in only his fifth Test, rattled along with 34 from 117 balls (he even hit a six). But his stand of 44 with Amla took 38 overs. Then Amla and de Villiers dropped a gear, adding 27 in 42, a staggering performance given their usual scoring-rates. Amla finally fell on the final morning, after making 25 from 244 balls in 289 minutes. But
de Villiers stayed put, adding 35 at a run an over with du Plessis.
At tea on the final day, South Africa had inched to 136 for five from 138 overs, but Vilas fell to the fifth ball after the resumption, and two deliveries later Ashwin removed de Villiers, after 354 minutes of abstinence had produced 43 runs. He scored off only 21 of his 297 balls: it was the longest-known Test innings under 50. The end was not so easily delayed, as the last five wickets added only seven runs between them in 31 balls after tea. The 143.1 overs South Africa faced was the most in a fourth innings by any team in Asia. But it wasn't quite enough, and India claimed the series 3-0.
Man of the Match: A. M. Rahane. Man of the Series: R. Ashwin
Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency