Sunday, April 13, 2008

India’s dramatic win to level Test series against SA

Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag triggered South Africa's collapse on an awkward pitch to help India square the series with an eight-wicket win in the third and final Test here on Sunday.

Off-spinner Harbhajan bagged 4-44 and part-time spinner Sehwag 3-12 as South Africa were shot out for 121 in their second innings on a turning track of unpredictable bounce after conceding a 60-run lead on the third day.

India raced to the 62-run target off just 13.1 overs, with Sehwag smashing two successive sixes off spinner Paul Harris in a 12-ball 22. Sourav Ganguly (13 not out) and Rahul Dravid (18 not out) then completed the win.

India had lost the second Test by an innings and 90 runs in Ahmedabad and drawn the first in Chennai.

South Africa never found the going easy on a pitch where the ball sometimes kept low as well as jumped, creating doubts in the batsmen's minds. Only skipper Graeme Smith (35) and Ashwell Prince (22 not out) offered resistance.

It was South Africa's third-lowest total against India in Tests and the second successive match of the series to be finished inside three days. As many as 13 wickets fell on the third day.

The visitors' hopes of posting a challenging total receded sharply when they lost the last six wickets for 31 runs, with Harbhajan taking three, paceman Ishant Sharma two and off-spinner Sehwag one.

Mark Boucher was caught behind off a nasty delivery from Sharma that rose from just short of a good length, with wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni holding a simple catch.

Stand-in captain Dhoni sprang a surprise in the morning when he opened the attack with Harbhajan and then kept rotating his pacemen and spinners in a bid to keep non-stop pressure on the South African batsmen.

When he pressed Sehwag into the attack in the afternoon, the move paid off instantly as the part-timer got the vital wickets of Smith and Jacques Kallis in three overs.

Left-handed Smith and Kallis (15) looked like steadying the innings after the fall of two early wickets, but Sehwag swung the match India's way.

Sehwag had Kallis caught by Wasim Jaffer at short-leg and then bowled Smith to virtually put his team in a winning position.

Shanthakumaran Sreesanth (29) earlier frustrated South Africa with a 46-run stand for the last wicket with Ishant Sharma (14 not out) before India were bowled out for 325 in their first innings in reply to the visitors' 265.

The last-wicket pair batted more than an hour in the morning, adding 37 to their team's overnight total of 288-9.

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