Thursday, February 18, 2010

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India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 5th day

India win thriller despite heroic Amla

The Bulletin by Sidharth Monga

February 18, 2010

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India 643 for 6 dec (Sehwag 165, Laxman 143*, Dhoni 132*, Tendulkar 106) beat South Africa 296 (Amla 114, Petersen 100, Zaheer 4-90, Harbhajan 3-64) and 289 (Amla 127*, Harbhajan 5-59, Mishra 3-78) by an innings and 58 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out

Hashim Amla brings up his second century of the match, India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 5th day, February 18, 2010
India couldn't dismiss Hashim Amla all day, but got all his partners instead © Associated Press

They couldn't out Hashim Amla at all. But India, down to three bowlers and led by an exceptional Harbhajan Singh, found a way around him, leaving him stranded with nine mandatory balls to go, sealing a heart-stopping, series-levelling, top-spot-retaining win. As was fitting, it was Harbhajan who brought about the final wicket with a slider to the left-hand batsman Morne Morkel, after he had put together a 76-minute last-wicket stand with Amla. The final few steps didn't come easy for India: the last three wickets batted out 53.3 overs to set up a beautiful Test-match finish.

For eight hours and 19 minutes in this innings, taking the total time spent at the wicket to 23 hours and 22 minutes for the series, Amla saw everything: offbreaks, topspinners, unintended doosras, big legbreaks, googlies, bouncers, full ones, a blow on the elbow, the opposition bowlers' joy, the bowlers' frustration, and Harbhajan's eruption at having taken the last wicket. Throughout, when he reached fifty, when he reached hundred, when he was hurt, when he was concentrating, when he was defending, during those final few overs of counting each delivery down, and when he was walking back after one of the biggest disappointments he will experience on a cricket field, the calm expression on that face didn't change.

Amla batted like the Monk who didn't even have a Ferrari to sell, and it took a special bowling effort to deny his side the series win. Harbhajan answered India's call with spin bowling aggressive and patient, smart and persistent, and came up with that wicket-taking delivery when it had deserted the other bowlers.

If Amla never looked like getting out, Harbhajan never looked like letting anybody else settle. India started the day needing seven wickets in 98 overs, 52.2 of which were a hopeless waste: Amla faced them, and this man was not going to get out. Not today. They did well to create enough pressure in the remaining overs - despite two dropped catches - to finish the match off with 16 minutes still remaining in the day's play.

India woke up to a bright and sunny day, but were thwarted in the first session by Amla and Ashwell Prince. For about two hours, Amla kept killing their hopes, Prince kept raising them only to not edge to hand. Finally, just when the draw started to become the favoured result, Harbhajan came back for his second spell of the day, from his favoured High Court End.

In the first spell, he had tried to get Prince lbw in a fashion similar to the one in the first innings, and failed. In his second he went over the stumps and made it difficult for Prince to judge which deliveries to leave. The leg line troubled Prince, and finally he jabbed at one outside off and lobbed it to mid-off.

Amit Mishra once again produced the special delivery out of nowhere, this time a googly to take out AB de Villiers in the penultimate over before the lunch break, the third time he had taken a wicket just before a break in the innings. de Villiers was the big wicket because he was the one batsman capable of using his feet and hitting spinners off their length.

In the second spell, six overs each either side of lunch, Harbhajan looked menacing with almost every delivery. After lunch, Harbhajan went on to suggest JP Duminy might become his new Ponting. Offbreak, offbreak, slider. Duminy caught in front again. Dale Steyn didn't have a clue about deliveries spinning down the leg side, and kept getting beaten. Harbhajan smartly moved round the stumps, and trapped him too.

Thereafter Amla found an able partner in Parnell, who looked much more assured than Steyn, and helped by a dropped catch by Suresh Raina at a wide fourth slip, played out 24.2 overs. Amla manipulated the strike well: out of eight overs that Harbhajan bowled during that stand, Parnell got away by facing only 12 balls from the best bowler around.

A soft shot befitting a No. 9 arrived duly, after which Amla shielded Paul Harris for a while. From facing four balls of each over, he gradually let Harris face three each, and by the time Harris generated enough confidence in Amla, a soft shot befitting a No. 10 came by. Ishant got both the wickets, but 8.3 more overs had been negated.

That started the most exciting period of the match. Morkel batted solidly along with Amla, they both judged the leaves well, they both defended with soft hands, they both frustrated India more with every passing delivery. Towards the end, mind games began. Amla took a single late in a Mishra over to face Harbhajan in the next over, Dhoni removed Harbhajan and tried the part-time stuff from Sachin Tendulkar and Sehwag, and got Harbhajan to bowl at Morkel again.

Nothing gave. Amla seemed to have found a partner who was holding his nerve well. The desperation on Indian faces kept getting more and more apparent with every passing delivery. With 3.2 overs to go, Amla cut Tendulkar towards the boundary, took a single so as to face two more overs as opposed to one. Sehwag hoped it would reach the boundary as he chased, but slyly tried to kick it over when he saw it stop inches before the rope. Just to keep Morkel on strike. That's how much it mattered.

Amla duly played out the next over, Dhoni duly saved Harbhajan for the over after that. Harbhajan had six more balls left, from the High Court End. The first pitched middle, turned away. The second pitched leg, and broke towards off. The third was the killer slider, Morkel made his first mistake in 60 deliveries. Harbhajan roared, Amla's expression didn't change much.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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India overcome South Africa's defiance to win nailbiter in Kolkata

Harbhajan Singh

India's Harbhajan Singh celebrates after taking the wicket of South Africa's Jean Paul Duminy. The spinner took five wickets in the tourists' second innings. Photograph: Stringer/India/Reuters

Harbhajan Singh took five wickets as India secured a dramatic innings and 58-run victory on the final day of the second Test against South Africa at Kolkata.

India's victory at Eden Gardens tied the two-Test series at 1-1 and retained their place at the top of the International Cricket Council rankings.

India, starting the day needing seven more wickets for victory, chipped away steadily at South Africa's line-up but Hashim Amla provided another twist in a match that ebbed and flowed with a brilliant, unbeaten 127.

Amla – who took the man of the match award and man of the series awards for centuries in each innings at Eden Gardens and 490 in total for once out – had raised hopes of a draw for South Africa in a last-wicket stand with Morne Morkel (12) that had spanned more than 20 overs and was reminiscent of the defiance England had shown against in their recent series, but Harbhajan returned to snare Morkel with around 15 minutes remaining in the day.

Having already lost over a day to rain and bad light, India suffered another blow before play resumed as their strike bowler Zaheer Khan was forced to sit out the final three sessions due to a leg muscle strain sustained during play yesterday.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni opened with the part-time spinner Virender Sehwag and the fast bowler Ishant Sharma, but shuffled his bowlers around and soon had spinners operating from both ends.

Harbhajan and the leg-spinner Amit Mishra stuck admirably to the task, striking a probing line, but were thwarted for more than an hour in an extended morning session by Amla and Ashwell Prince, who made 23.

Amla, on 49 overnight, went past the half-century mark and had painstakingly constructed a 47-run stand with Prince before the latter was dismissed by Harbhajan. The off-spinner had the out-of-form left-hand batsman in all sorts of trouble and eventually removed him with a ball that was pitched just outside off, Prince chipping carelessly to Ishant at mid-off.

Mishra then claimed his third scalp, trapping AB De Villiers (three) plumb in front with a googly while he played down the wrong line and the Proteas were still 183 runs behind at lunch, but with only five wickets in hand.

India began the afternoon session with vigour and Harbhajan had JP Duminy dismissed for six when the batsman rocked back to defend a delivery that was pushed slightly quicker through the air, misjudged the line completely and was hit on the back pad right in front.

South Africa were still 175 behind at that stage and Amla, the last recognised batsman, was left waging a lone battle alongside the tail.

Dale Steyn went quickly, leg before to Harbhajan who had shifted his line of attack from over to around the stumps but Wayne Parnell (22), showing a far better technique against the spinners than most of the middle-order batsmen, stalled India's attack but was let off on 14 when Suresh Raina, on the field for the injured Gautam Gambhir, grassed a catch at fourth slip.

Amla had moved into the 90s with consecutive boundaries off Ishant and raised his ninth Test century and third of the series with another off Mishra, who had shared the second new ball. Parnell, however, was extracted in the fourth over after the tea interval, momentarily losing composure and handing Ishant his first success despite a strong showing from the medium-pacer.

Parnell went tamely, chipping a full delivery straight to Harbhajan at mid-on, his dismissal ending a stubborn eighth-wicket stand that had yielded 70.

Paul Harris (four) hung around for a while, negotiating 24 deliveries, but his resistance too was ended by Ishant, as he perished to an edge.

Morkel then joined Amla and India were put under severe pressure as the pair stood firm. Even Sachin Tendulkar, who rarely bowls these days following a shoulder injury, twirled his arm without success.

But Harbhajan eventually trapped Morkel in front, sparking wild celebrations. The spinner finished with five for 59, while Mishra took three for 78.

Amla was named man of the match though. He finished the series with an average of 494 – the second highest, behind Wally Hammond, in the history of Test cricket.

"India v South Africa" second Testn | in pictures



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