Durban, Dec 28: The world’s two top Test teams – India and South Africa – were locked in a fierce battle at Kingsmead with the hosts needing 192 runs to win the second Test and the visitors seven wickets to level the series.
After yet another day of twists and turns Tuesday, the third day of the engrossing battle, the outcome of the match remains shrouded. The track that has caused the downfall of 33 wickets in three days, looks good for batting, but also has pace and the bounce for the bowlers.
South Africa shot India out for 228 in the second innings with V.V.S.Laxman running out of partners to end up four runs short of a deserving century. He found an able ally in Zaheer Khan with whom he shared a 70-run stand for the eighth wicket.
Needing 303 for victory, South African openers Graeme Smith (37) and Alviro Petersen (26) adopted an attacking strategy and brought up 63 runs in 12.1 overs. S.Sreesanth (2-30) gave India the breakthrough when Smith’s pull skied up and Mahendra Singh Dhoni ran near square leg to take the catch.
Petersen was dismissed three overs later when Cheteshwar Pujara caught his inside-edge at leg slip off Harbhajan Singh.
Hashim Amla, who has been in brilliant form against India this year, threw his wicket when he went after a short and wide Sreesanth delivery only to be caught behind.
Jacques Kallis (12), who enjoyed a reprieve by Pujara when he was yet to open his account, and AB de Villiers (17) will continue the fight Wednesday.
Smith struck five fours in his 38-ball knock and opened the run chase with two boundaries off Zaheer Khan in the first over. In his next over, Khan was again at the receiving end as Smith struck two fours.
South Africa were scoring runs at more than five per over and when it looked that the chase would be over quickly, Sreesanth struck in the last over before tea with a short ball.
Earlier in the day, Laxman (96) and Zaheer (27) defied the South African attack before India’s second innings folded for 228 runs.
After the morning session in which India lost three wickets, Laxman and Zaheer turned the heat on South African bowlers.
Morne Morkel (3-47) took two wickets in the morning while Lonwabo Tsotsobe (3-43) dismissed Mahendra Singh Dhoni (21) to reduce India to 148 for seven after the visitors resumed at 92 for four.
Pujara (10) was the first to go as he was unable to properly fend off a steep Morkel bouncer that climbed on him. Dhoni, after playing some attacking shots, poked at a wide delivery and was caught behind. Harbhajan (4) was caught by Kallis off Morkel in the second slip.
At that stage, it looked Laxman would soon run out of partners and a lead in excess of 250 unlikely. But Zaheer, after playing some rash shots, settled down with Laxman farming the strike.
Laxman, who is experienced in playing with the tailenders, played some exquisite shots, stroking 12 fours in 171 balls.
Zaheer perished to Paul Harris while Ishant Sharma was caught by Amla off Kallis.
Laxman went after the bowling and was dismissed while attempting a cut off Dale Steyn (2-60) and giving a catch to Mark Boucher. –(IANS)