Just over 34 overs were possible on the crucial fourth day’s play at the Eden Gardens due to rain and bad light interruptions. South Africans lost three big wickets in the little phases of play which included that of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and the first innings centurion Alviro Peteresen. The Indian spin duo of Harbhajan Singh (1 for 31 in 13 overs) and Amit Mishra (2 for 15 in 7 overs) are posing a lot of problems to the batsmen on a responsive pitch.
Play on the fourth day was delayed due to wet outfield caused by the overnight showers. The first session could start at only 10:30 AM and was of just an hour’s length. Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen looked solid in that period until Amit Mishra was introduced into the bowling attack just moments before the lunch break. Graeme Smith (20 from 33 balls) did the mistake of playing across the line to an off and middle stump leg break from Mishra to miss it and get plumb in front of the sticks. It was only the first ball of the spell for Mishra, bowling from over the sticks and getting the ball to turn in sharply and Smith paid the mistake for closing the bat face too soon.
South Africa went to lunch at 39 for 1 in 14 overs. Just three overs after lunch, Harbhajan reduced them to 54 for 2 by bowling a turning and jumping off break that caught the bat pad edge of Alviro Petersen (21 from 51 balls) for short leg. Badrinath was the catcher who timed his jump properly and kept his eyes on the ball all the time to take it on the second attempt.
After losing the second wicket, SA could bring up some sort of a fightback through Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis. But that was shortlived as Amit Mishra got a turning leg break around middle to catch the edge off Kallis’ blade for MS Dhoni. Kallis had worked his way to 20 (from 47 balls) and was into a good looking partnership with Amla that was cut short to 57. Bad light halted play after that successful over from Mishra just around 10 minutes to go for Tea.
There was some light rain as well in the afternoon and play could resume again at only 3:30. The Indian players were very happy to have one last shot at the Proteas but all they could get in was one over before the Umpires offered light again to the batsmen! That was all for the fourth day’s play with SA hanging in there nervously at 115 for 3. Amla is the key batting on 49 (from 80 balls with 7 fours). He has got Prince, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and the bowlers to follow.
India would be hoping for atleast 60 overs of play on the final day to take the remaining seven wickets. South Africa have a very good chance of holding on for a draw because of three quality batsmen in Amla, Prince and de Villiers. It is the bounce generated by the two spinners that is going to put them for the big test.