When a draw and thriller can go together!

The last time any team won an India-South Africa Test series was way back in 2006. Since then the three series have been tied at 1-1 each. This is an oasis at a time when both India and Australia have been whitewashed and the England team is also looking at a whitewash in the current Ashes series.

The deadlock continued when the two teams played out what could be probably called the greatest draw in the history of Test cricket. Never had the commentators been so wrong about a pitch and in the end you didn’t know whether it was a bowler’s beauty or a batsman’s delight.

At the beginning we were told it would be a difficult pitch to play on and one must commend captain MS Dhoni’s courage in opting to bat first. India looked well set at 264-5, but then they crashed to 280. After that South Africa seemed to forge ahead at 130-1, but they crashed to 146-6.

A rearguard action took them past the 200 mark, but the Indian bowlers hit back to get South Africa all down for 244. When India batted again then at 315-4 it looked like India would set an impossible target, but the Proteas bowlers’ struck to make it a target of 458, which at least was in the realms of possibility.

Again the South Africans saw a see-saw chase. At 108-0, our opposition was sitting pretty and at 197-4 India would have thought it was just a matter of time that the wickets would start falling.

But one must say that at 402-4, India was shut out of the game and it was South Africa’s to lose. Even though they lost two quick wickets, then even at 442-6, the equation read in their favour:

16 runs required off 21 balls with 4 wickets in hand.

You might even back Bangladesh to win at that stage.

After the seventh wicket fell, both teams seemed to have shut down the shutters and the match ended tamely in a draw. That could be called the only low point of the match. In the end South Africa played 816 balls and had any two of these dot balls gone for boundaries or wickets, then the match would have swung decisively one way.

But the chase was a curious one. There were no genuine dismissals by bowlers and freak ones seemed to be the order of the innings. There were two run outs. Three batsmen dragged the ball on to their stumps. Jacques Kallis was not out and DRS might have turned the match on its head. Finally Hashim Amla left the ball and it ended up crashing on the stumps!

Rarely does one fielder play such an important role in the match and Ajinkya Rahane’s two direct hits and one miss were downright crucial.

First Rahane hit the stumps and ended a fine century opening stand.

At 318-4 he almost hit the stumps to affect a run out in something that could have swung the match entirely in India’s direction.

Finally he took the seventh wicket in a similar fashion and that probably put the match on the path of a draw as we looked like totally losing it at that stage.

Of course India will come back much happier at the end of this Test. For one, we have ended our 0-8 streak of lost Test matches on foreign soil. Virat Kohli was the man of the match and this was one of the greatest performances on foreign pitches we’ve seen by an Indian batsman.

Cheteshwar Pujara got a 150 and Zaheer Khan made a great comeback picking up five wickets in the match. Even Ishant Sharma, whose career looked over a few months back, ended up taking 5 wickets. Co-incidentally Mohammed Shami also picked up 5 wickets, making it one of our best bowling performances.

Even someone like Ajinkya Rahane will feel satisfied as he scored more than 50 runs in the match and affected two very crucial run outs.

It is a travesty that a 4-match series was reduced to a 2-Test one; otherwise we really had a mouthwatering 20 days of cricket on our hands!

© Sunil Rajguru

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