Johannesburg, Dec 22: India and South Africa both came tantalisingly close to creating history before settling for a breathtaking draw in the first cricket Test at the New Wanderers Stadium here Sunday — in the end, India fell three wickets and South Africa eight runs short of victory.
Resuming the day at 138/2 while chasing 458, the hosts suffered a couple of hiccups in the morning but Faf du Plessis (134) and AB de Villiers (103) struck a 205-run fifth wicket partnership to almost take South Africa home.
India, however, made a dramatic turnaround in the last hour by taking three wickets to eke out a pulsating draw by halting South Africa at 450/7 — their highest fourth innings total and third highest in cricketing history.
South Africa were sailing at 402/4 with 56 runs to get from 13 overs but India, who appeared set to lose despite setting a monumental target, slowed down the run rate. The turning point came when Ajinkya Rahane ran out du Plessis with the Proteas needing 16 runs from 3.1 overs.
Zaheer Khan and Mohammed Shami bowled two perfect maidens in the next two overs. With 16 to get from Shami’s last over South Africa only managed two runs before Dale Steyn hit a six off the final ball.
This was the highest total by any team against India in the fourth innings with the previous being 369/6 by England in August 2007. South Africa would have created history if they had won as this would have been the highest total ever chased in cricket. The draw also ended India’s eight-match losing streak in away Tests since July 2011.
In the morning, India took off well when Alviro Peterson (76) dragged a Mohammed Shami delivery on to his leg stump in the fifth over, without adding a single run to his overnight score.
But South Africa made sure that India did not run away with victory by sticking out the first session on a fifth day pitch to reach 236/4 at lunch by scoring a gritty 99 runs in 29 overs.
Du Plessis and Jacques Kallis (34) combined well to put on 54 runs for the fourth wicket before the latter was adjudged leg before wicket off Zaheer — who became the fourth Indian bowler and second pacer to take 300 wickets in Tests. However, replays showed Kallis had edged the ball onto his pads.
Du Plessis and de Villiers added another 95 runs in 31 overs without losing a wicket in the second session with South Africa reaching 331/4 — 127 runs away from victory.
With the duo batting strongly, the Test swung from India’s favour into South African hands. Both batsman completed their centuries and looked solid for taking their team to a memorable win when de Villiers was bowled by Ishant Sharma. This was followed by JP Duminy, bowled by Shami.
Du Plessis’s run out by Rahane — who earlier ran out skipper Graeme Smith — put the brakes on the South African innings and India managed to salvage a draw after being in a winning position at the end of Day 4.