India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni doffed his hat to his lion-hearted bowlers for scripting the home team’s dramatic series-levelling win over South Africa in the second Test here on Thursday.
Dhoni said getting seven South African wickets in the final session of the opening day tilted the game in his team’s favour and even though the side missed Zaheer Khan — who had strained a leg muscle, the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra shouldered the extra burden and delivered the goods.
“The bowlers were really great. The wicket did nothing on the first day. It was not a turner as such but Mishy (Mishra) and Bhajji (Harbhajan) bowled really well,” Dhoni said after India beat South Africa to level the series and retain their number one Test team’s status.
“Today we didn’t have Zaheer and the bowlers bowled really well. We had lost one day’s play and today we did not have Zaheer. We desperately wanted to be on the winning side because of the amount of effort that the three bowlers put in today,” he said.
“Mishra bowled really well. It was good to see Ishant (Sharma) bowling with rhythm and pace and bowling in right areas. Bhajji too was brilliant. There is so much pressure on him ever since Anil Kumble retired. Every time he walks out, people expect him to get 3-4 wickets,” Dhoni said.
The last South African pair of Hashim Amla and Morne Morkel made India wait agonisingly for over 20 overs before Harbhajan, who rediscovered himself in his happy hunting ground with eight crucial wickets, removed the Morkel to trigger off euphoria across the Eden Gardens.
Harbhajan said with time running out, he had his heart in his mouth.
“The heart was pumping. I’m very happy. Today we bowled with just three bowlers but we have done the job. Eden has been special to me. I don’t know what it is but I have done well here always,” he said.
“We wanted to remain at the top of the table. We know we got the players and the team to remain the number one side,” said the offie.
Sachin Tendulkar also cherished the moment and saluted the bowlers for their never-say-die spirit.
“It was a good Test and good to see the scoreboard saying that we remain the number one Test team,” said the batsman who notched up his 47th Test ton in this match.
“Our seamers did a decent job on day one. But it was Harbhajan’s three wickets in the final session that made a lot of difference and then Zaheer claimed a couple. They set up a good platform for us,” he said.
“No match is over till the last ball is bowled. I knew it was just a matter of getting enough bowl in the right areas. After all we needed just one wicket,” Tendulkar said.
Even though India won the match, Amla was the standout performer for South Africa as he nearly saved the match with his epic unbeaten 123.
“I’m tired and disappointed we lost the match,” said a weary Amla whose more-than-eight-hour vigil went in vain.
“Me and Morne were just having some fun out there. He played really well and so did (Wayne) Parnell earlier.
Fortunately, Morne and Parnell are decent batsmen and took lots of pressure of me,” said the right-hander, who got centuries in both the innings to bag the man of the match award.
“I am being just grateful that I have had a good tour.
Unfortunately we lost. It was a very good wicket and we could have saved it. There wasn’t’ anything unplayable from the wicket,” said Amla, who was also adjudged man of the series for scoring 490 runs in the two-match series.
The Proteas skipper Graeme Smith felt his team should have batted better in the first essay and held their catches.
“We should have batted better in the first innings. We then came and dropped a few catches. The pitch (here) was still good,” he said.
Lavishing praise on Amla, he said, “He has been outstanding through the series. He is become our glue at number three. I don’t think any of us have seen him play better. He has a calm mind and has been working very hard. Great to see it coming together for me.”