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India retain No.1 spot with a hard-earned win

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Harbhajan Singh Eden GardensHarbhajan Singh helped India clinch a dramatic victory with just around 15 minutes left before close on the final day’s play at the Eden Gardens. India had to work extremely hard to wrap up the match as South Africa had batting right till no.11 and a big wall in Hashim Amla. The innings victory achieved by India was terrific considering that an injured Zaheer Khan was not available to bowl even a single ball whole day!

The weather was surprisingly perfect all day in Kolkata as South Africa resumed at 115 for 3. The fifth day began at 8:45 AM with 98 overs to  be bowled. India was held up for a couple of hours by the overnight pair of Hashim Amla and Ashwell Prince though runs did not come at a fast clip. Just after the second drinks break of the extended morning session, an edgy Ashwell Prince made the fatal mistake of working against the off break of Harbhajan Singh to lob a simple catch to mid off. Prince hung in there for 80 balls to make 23 in a 47-run stand with Amla.

Amit Mishra provided a big breakthrough moments before the lunch break just like how he had got Graeme Smith lbw yesterday. Today he foxed AB de Villiers with a googly to have the right hander lbw. AB de Villiers (3 from 16 balls) was playing for the leg break in a forward defence and got hit on the pad by the wrong one. By Lunch, India had done really well to have SA at 164 for 5 with just Amla standing in their way.

An Indian victory was very much on the cards when Harbhajan Singh deceived left handed JP Duminy in the air to have him lbw. JP went back rather than coming forward to a full length drifter which skidded in quickly and the batsman late in bringing his bat down. Four over later, Harbhajan went round the sticks and got his off break to pitch in line and straighten enough to trap Dale Steyn on the pad.

South Africa slipped to 180 for 7 and it seemed that the match was coming to a close by Tea. But that just didn’t happen as Amla kept his end intact and the no.9 Wayne Parnell was a handy batsman. India got a golden opportunity to break what was turning out to be a stubborn partnership when Ishant Sharma with the second new ball forced a thick edge off the left handed Parnell. However, Suresh Raina put down a sitter of a catch at gully. South Africa went to Tea at 250 for 7 with Amla registering his 9th test century, the second of this match and the third in this series.

India could breathe easy after Tea when Parnell (22 from 64 balls) flicked early to a good length inswinger from Ishant to get caught by Harbhajan at short mid wicket. Parnell stayed in the middle for nearly 25 overs with Amla. Ishant Sharma got one more wicket a few minutes after that when Paul Harris pushed away from his body to get caught at third slip.

Now India was left with as many as 22 overs to take the final wicket. They certainly weren’t going to get rid of a determined Hashim Amla and the only chance was to dislodge Morne Morkel. Yet they struggled to do that with Morkel showing compact defence and the overs and time ticking by quickly. With just 15 minutes to go and hardly four overs or so, Harbhajan Singh got a fizzing drifter from round the sticks to hit the pad of Morne Morkel dead infront of middle. The Umpire made the crowd happy by raising his finger and India won by an innings and 58 runs.

Hashim Amla was unconquered on 123 having batted out 394 balls! Morne Morkel lasted 60 balls and his last wicket partnership with Amla was a little less than 2o overs long! For Harbhajan Singh, it was a 24th five-wicket haul. He had tremendous figures of 5 for 59 in 48.3 overs along with 23 maidens! Mishra raised his game to take 3 for 78 in 40 overs. Ishant, the third bowler was average but took two key wickets though it were of late order batsmen. The Man of the Match and the Player of the Series awards were pocketed by Hashim Amla.

India with this win drew the 2-Test Series 1-1 and could retain their No.1 spot in Test rankings.

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