SK Flashback: India win a thriller at Kolkata against the Proteas
Amla's dual centuries, Bhajji's 5-fer, a look back at a thrilling Test from South Africa's tour of India in 2010.
It was the second Test of the two-Test series during South Africa’s tour to India in the year 2010. The hosts were humiliated in the first game in Nagpur as they were crushed by an innings and 6 runs. To retain the No. 1 ranking in Tests, India had to win the second Test at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata and it turned out to be one of the most thrilling yet comprehensive Test wins for India.
South Africa won their second toss in a row and once again opted to bat. Zaheer Khan provided India the early breakthrough by removing his favourite bunny, Graeme Smith, for 4. Hashim Amla joined Alviro Petersen in the middle and the duo amassed a partnership of 209 runs with both scoring their individual centuries. At 218/2, the Proteas looked set for a big score.
But it was followed by a big collapse as the remaining 8 wickets fell for just 78 runs and they were bundled out for 296 runs. Zaheer Khan was the prime destructor with 4 wickets and Harbhajan Singh bagged 3 to give India an edge in the match.
The four centurions
India in reply, had a good opening partnership with Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag adding 73 runs. Sehwag went on to score 165 runs off just 174 balls and shared a stand of 249 runs for the 3rd wicket with Sachin Tendulkar who also went past three figures and finished with a score of 106 runs. Both departed in quick succession followed by Badrinath and India were in a slight spot of bother at 336/5.
VVS Laxman was then joined by the skipper MS Dhoni and both took India to a position of strength. Laxman scored 143 runs and Dhoni got 132 as they put together 259 runs for the 7th wicket. India declared at a huge score of 643/6 with a massive lead of 347 runs over the visitors, who had their work cut out to save the Test.
India had plenty of time to pick up 10 wickets to level the series and they started well with the wickets of Smith and Petersen. They picked wickets at regular intervals and had South Africa on the back foot for the most part of the innings. The big wickets of Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers were bagged by leg-spinner, Amit Mishra and, at one stage, the visitors were reeling at 180/7.
Hashim Amla, who was having centuries for breakfast then, went on to score yet another one in a bid to draw the game. He had already scored a double century in the previous Test and a century in the first innings which meant that he had scores of 100 plus each time he stepped onto the pitch.
He simply refused to leave the crease at any cost and kept defending ball after ball to keep the hopes for a draw alive.
He was ably supported by the tail-enders, Wayne Parnell and Morne Morkel. The last three batsmen batted for 53.3 overs and frustrated the Indian bowlers who lost their spearhead, Zaheer Khan after he had succumbed to an injury earlier in the innings.
The last wicket partnership of Morkel and Amla went on for 76 minutes and brought them close to saving the Test.
Harbhajan’s magic in the fading day
Only two mandatory overs were left on the final day as Harbhajan Singh was into the attack to ball the penultimate over. The first ball pitched on middle and turned away, the second was even further down leg and yet turned outside the off. Morkel who somehow was managing to stay put thus far was keeping the crowd on its feet. It was slowly slipping away from the grasp of the Indians and the No. 1 crown was also in danger.
Then came the delivery that did it for India. The off-spinner bowled a slider that pitched on middle and didn’t turn and struck Morkel on the front pad. All the close-in fielders along with the thousands of spectators in the stands went up for an appeal. The umpire Steve Davis obliged and raised his finger and the Indian team burst into celebration.
Morkel was shattered and could not believe what had struck him. He went on his knees in despair and on the other side, Harbhajan went for a victory run and his teammates followed. Amla at the other end was left stranded. He stayed unbeaten at 123 runs off 394 balls and held the fort for 498 minutes. India had pulled off a thriller with just 9 balls left in the day’s play.
Harbhajan was once again the star for India as he bagged 5 wickets for 59 runs after bowling 48.3 overs in the innings. Amla, for his magnificent knocks in both innings, was awarded the Man of the Match, as well as the Man of the Series award for 490 runs in just 3 innings.
The victory for India meant that the series ended in a draw with the score line of 1-1. India retained their No. 1 rankings in Test cricket but it was a series that would always be remembered for Amla’s epic performances.