India Level Series With Eight-Wicket Win In Kanpur
South Africa 265 (Smith 69, Amla 51) & 121 (Harbhajan Singh 4-44) v
325 (Ganguly 87, Laxman 50, Morkel 3-63) & 64-2
India won by eight wickets; series is tied 1-1
By John Pennington
Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly guided India to an eight-wicket victory in the third and final Test against South Africa to level the series in Kanpur.
They made full use of a turning pitch to bowl South Africa out for 121 in their second innings on day three with Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag sharing seven wickets.
Looking for a swift end to proceedings, Sehwag then smashed two sixes and a four on his way to 22 from 12 balls before he was caught by Ashwell Prince off of Paul Harris. Wasim Jaffer's miserable series continued as he was trapped in front by Morne Morkel for ten before Ganguly and Dravid combined to end any hopes South Africa had of stealing a win.
Ganguly, who hit a half-century in the first innings, and Dravid played watchfully, using all their experience to ensure there were no further wickets and that India would win the match inside three days. Dravid won the match with a swept four to fine leg to finish unbeaten on 18 while Ganguly was not out on 13
It was comprehensively India's day as after a last wicket stand of 46 between Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma inflated the Indian first innings score to 325, the bowlers further stamped their authority on the match with a clatter of South African wickets after lunch.
Both Sreesanth and Sharma played sensible cricket, eschewing the urge to throw the bat at will to frustrate the South Africans and put a score of over 300 on the board for India, who had to win the match to avoid a series defeat.
Their defiant resistance was finally ended when Sreesanth was caught by Prince off of Harris, who toiled through 32.4 overs for three wickets. Morne Morkel, who had Sreesanth caught off a no ball, finished with three for 63 as Dale Steyn also claimed three wickets.
Sharma remained unbeaten on 14.
India then came out, and with a first innings lead of 60, quickly removed two of South Africa's best form players in McKenzie and Amla.
McKenzie (14) was trapped in front by Sreesanth for his 50th Test wicket before Amla was caught at short leg by Wasim Jaffer off of Harbhajan Singh on the stroke of lunch.
Harbhajan Singh opened the bowling for India, as if anyone needed reminding of the sort of pitch that has been prepared for this vital match.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni paid tribute to his bowlers after the game. "There was assistance, but they bowled really well, especially the fast bowlers.
"In the second innings, everybody knew what lengths to bowl."
Two more wickets fell in the afternoon session, both to off-spinner Sehwag and they were the big wickets of Graeme Smith, clean bowled for 35 and Jacques Kallis, another catch to Jaffer for 15.
After tea, AB De Villiers (seven) and Harris (nought) fell to Harbhajan Singh while Mark Boucher (five) and Morne Morkel (nought) were dismissed by Sharma and innings was wrapped up when Steyn was bowled by Harbhajan Singh and Makhaya Ntini was caught by Ganguly off of Sehwag for a duck.
Harbhajan Singh took four for 44, Sehwag three for 12.
South Africa scored 265 in their first innings on day one.
South African captain Smith refused to blame the pitch for his side's defeat, instead maintaining his team had made errors at crucial times.
"When you are playing on a wicket like this, the margins are very small," Smith told reporters. "We let ourselves down slightly."
"We were 30 runs short in the first innings, we lost our way with our batting," he added.
"And also India getting a lead like that, those were the two big swinging points in the Test match.
"We were also not as good with the ball as we had been in the series. We were a little bit too anxious to bowl India out."
ï¿½ Cricket World 2008