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South Africa made Jacques Kallis’ last Test a memorable one as they trumped India by ten wickets to wrap up an abbreviated series by a 1-0 margin. The veteran all-rounder’s final game in whites for his country was marked by a stoic 115 that he completed on the fourth day, after which his bowlers turned it on in the final morning to snuff out whatever resistance MS Dhoni’s men may have planned to put up.
India began Monday two wickets down and 98 runs behind, and the die was cast in the first session itself as they lost five wickets: a couple apiece to fiery Dale Steyn and left-arm spinner Robin Peterson, and one to Vernon Philander. The left-arm spinner took another after lunch, after which the second new ball took care of the rest, with Steyn becoming the second-quickest, after Sri Lanka’s Mutiah Muralitharan, to 350 Test wickets.
Young Ajinkya Rahane sparkled amid the ruins with a chanceless 96, making sure that South Africa would have to bat again for 58 in a minimum of 46 overs to taste victory. The visitors did that without fuss, knocking up the runs in under ten overs, skipper Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen overhauling the target with marked haste.
For the most part, Rahane looked like he was batting on another planet, even as a steady exodus was taking place at the other end. His 157-ball knock contained 11 fours and two sixes: pings through mid-on off Morne Morkel, punches and pulls against Steyn, bullying slogs to Peterson. And when only the last-man Mohammad Shami remained, Rahane stepped it up even more, slamming Philander for four and six to race into the nineties. Another slog would have given him a maiden century, but the 25-year-old Mumbaikar was bowled by Philander attempting a big shot, as India were dismissed for 223.
Controversy had earlier commingled with elation and despair on very first ball of the morning when Virat Kohli was adjudged caught behind off a Steyn short-pitched delivery. Replays showed clear daylight between edge and ball and the ‘catch’ seemed to have come off the batsman’s shoulder. None of this mattered as umpire Steve Davis raised the fateful finger. The petulant Delhihite stormed off mouthing his favoured phrases, without a run added to his overnight 11.
Steyn took out Pujara (32) in his next over. The Saurashtra batsman too hadn’t bothered the scorers when a fast, angled-in missile pitched and shaped away just enough to slip past the bat and cannon into the off-stump. Pujara, who faced a grand total of 600 balls in this series, the 4th highest by an overseas batsman in South Africa, was shell-shocked, and India had lost their two principal batsman with almost nothing added to the total.
Rohits Sharma’s often-touted talent flickered momentarily. He pulled Steyn for four and carted Peterson for six over long-off, before a Philander in-cutter thudded into his pads in line with middle and leg, and there ended Rohit’s Test series with his highest score of the tour: an iffy 25 that followed 14, 6, and a golden duck.
Gloomy outlook for India
In came skipper Dhoni, all arms and legs as he managed a few heavy strikes in a way only he can, and added 46 quick runs with Rahane. India were 20 away from making South Africa bat again when Peterson struck twice in an over. Dhoni (15) fell to as crappy a ball as any – a leg-side half-tracker – that he struck high to be caught at mid-wicket. Four balls later, his favoured Chennai Super Kings teammate Ravindra Jadeja (8) followed suit. Having just hit a six, Jadeja tried to clear long-off again, but was taken well inside the boundary by Morkel.
It looked gloomy for India at lunch, seven runs in front, only three wickets remaining, and bright skies overhead. Zaheer Khan lasted 41 balls, until he became a victim of the second poor decision of the innings, as Peterson spun one into the batsman’s pads in line with the middle stick, although Hawkeye maintained that the ball would have missed leg stump.
The second new ball spelt a quick end for the rest. Steyn picked up Ishant Sharma with a bouncer directed at the throat, his 350th Test wicket. Rahane was out trying to get a ton before it was all over. If only it were at least a three-Test series we'd have come to gauge Dhoni's new-look team's ability to recuperate from defeat. Maybe we'll know that on the upcoming tour of New Zealand. But wait, isn't that too a two-Test series?
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