India level seriesAlex Crampton |
It took a great effort from Jacques Kallis to give South Africa a chance in this match, but another world-class batsman, Rahul Dravid, thwarted South Africa’s hopes of a series win.
The side bowling first had won each of the 3 matches leading up to this one, so it came as no surprise when Rahul Dravid won the toss and elected to field. In good form with both bat and ball, Irfan Pathan caused the South African batsmen some real problems early on, bowling Andrew Hall and claiming the vital wicket of Graeme Smith, caught by Harbhajan for 23.
When Yuvraj caught Prince for a painstaking 9, South Africa had little other option than to send in Mark Boucher at 5, showing just how short their batting line-up can be with Gibbs and Dippenaar. Boucher played well though, scoring a boundary-less 35 in a partnership of 81 with the watchful Kallis, setting South Africa up for a productive last 10 overs.
Despite the rapidly decreasing overs, Kallis refrained from playing any big shots, staying in his anchor role. Harbhajan Snigh claimed his second wicket in the 45th over, that of Justin Kemp which could well have made a big difference to South Africa’s eventual total. Shaun Pollock did his best to push South Africa up and above 220, striking 4 boundaries and a 6 in his 30 from 17 balls. Kallis was dismissed 9 short of a century in the 49th over, and although he perhaps should have accelerated more than he did, he went a long way to giving South Africa a decent score.
With a disappointing score of 221 to defend, South Africa made early inroads into India’s batting line-up, Ntini getting Gambhir for a duck. It was then time for Tendulkar and Sehwag to do their bit for an Indian victory, both contributing a brief cameo. Sehwag’s 27 included 4 fours and a six, and was brought to an end by a poor decision from Daryl Harper. Tendulkar’s 30 was far more sedate, but there was ntohing dodgy about his dismissal, Ashwell Prince hanging on to a catch at point that Jonty Rhodes would have been proud of.
But with South Africa’s hopes rising, Yuvraj and Dravid would take the game out of their reach. Yuvraj has been in great form in recent weeks, and he played another vital innings today. His stylish innings combined with Dravid’s elegant drives in a 79-run partnership that left India 60 runs to get in 16 overs with 6 wickets remaining after Yuvraj’s dismissal for 49.
They got those runs without any major worry, just losing one further wicket, that of Mahendra Dhoni. India were the better side today, but they were aided by the toss as both teams were throughout the series. Today was a fitting end to a good series, but it could have been a whole lot more interesting had the match at Chennai not been rained off.
South Africa 221-6
Jacques Kallis 91
Irfan Pathan 3-20, Harbhajan Singh 2-38
Rahul Dravid 78*, Yuvraj Singh 49
Andre Nel 2-35
India win by 5 wickets
The series is drawn 2-2
Cricket Web Man of the Match
Cricket Web Players of the Series
Graeme Smith and Yuvraj Singh