Sreesanth captured his 3rd five-wicket haul to bowl India back in the match during the second day’s play of the third and final Test Match at Cape Town. South Africa were restricted to 362 because of Sreesanth taking two key wickets in two balls. The hosts would have ended up with a below par total but for a fabulous knock of 161 from overnight batsman – Jacques Kallis with this being his 39th Test century. India in reply got off to a bad start but recovered well to 142 for 2 by close to trail behind by 220 runs.
The morning session seemed to be going SA’s way as India failed to get any early breakthrough but once the second new ball was available after six overs of play, the match started to change its complexion. Sreesanth replaced Ishant Sharma and from over the sticks got the ball to curl away towards the slips initially but using his skills got it to nip back and also swing in to defeat a push drive from Prince to sneak through the bat pad gap and hit the off stump. Prince was batting nicely on 47 (from 100 balls with 6 fours) until then and his partnership with Kallis for the 5th wicket was 98 runs. The knockout punch from Sreesanth which stopped SA from dreaming of a huge total came when he had Boucher caught behind on the backfoot with a leg cutter kind of delivery. Sreesanth missed out on a hat-trick though but reduced SA to 262 for 6 in 84 overs.
India made further inroads taking three more wickets before the lunch break starting with Zaheer Khan bouncing out Dale Steyn to have him caught at gully in the 87th over and Sreesanth getting Morkel nick a big heave to the keeper in the next over. South Africa were on the brink of being bowled out in the morning session but a stubborn partnership between Kallis and Harris delayed it. Harris batted out 41 balls to add up 27 runs for the 9th wicket before fending off Ishant Sharma to leg gully in the 99th over. India couldn’t wrap up things even after that and SA went to Lunch at 335 for 9 with Kallis on 140 not out but slightly injured around his side while attempting a hook shot.
The last wicket pair of Kallis and Tsotsobe frustrated the Indians after the lunch break and it was only in the 113th over that the innings came to a close. Kallis looking to play a forcing cut shot was caught behind off a Zaheer Khan away going delivery and South Africa got bowled out for 362. Kallis’ 161 came in 291 balls with 19 fours while batting out a little over 7 and a half hours. He put up a vital stand of 52 with Tsotsobe (8* from 28 balls) for the last wicket. Sreesanth was superb with figures of 29-0-114-5 for the visitors while Zaheer Khan wasn’t at his best but got 3 for 89.
India started off poorly in their first innings with Virender Sehwag throwing his wicket away in the 7th over. Sehwag (13 from 20 balls) sliced a drive on the up off Dale Steyn towards mid off where Smith held onto a forward diving catch. The bowling at this stage was red hot from Steyn and especially Morne Morkel who was getting plenty of steep bounce even for the good length deliveries! In the 11th over, Gambhir had poked Tsotsobe towards gully where Prince failed to hold onto a difficult catch but still there was a wicket on offer in the same ball as Dravid called for a suicidal run! Dravid (5 from 16 balls) paid price for running on the misfield and AB de Villiers who picked the ball up hurled a direct throw at the batting end to get the wicket. India was on the backfoot at 28 for 2!
The visitors somehow scratched to 49 for 2 in 16 overs by Tea but after that it was a confident partnership between Gambhir and Tendulkar that was steadily defying the South African fire attack. Gambhir had another piece of luck when he got dropped by AB de Villiers again off Tsotsobe’s bowling. Tendulkar on the other hand had a close escape from getting out lbw to Paul Harris. Both the batsmen had the luck on their side atleast for the day and by close of play steered India safely to 142 for 2 in 50 overs. Gambhir was patient getting his 65* in 159 balls with 8 fours. Tendulkar collected an unbeaten 49 in 106 balls with 5 fours to put up a superb 114-run stand for the unbroken 3rd wicket partnership with Gambhir.