The Indians have one last day to save the game and reiterate their credentials

South Africa led the way one step at a time, seamlessly blending morning’s consolidation with afternoon’s urgency. India played the secondary-role, offering the defensive counter-point, muffling the blows while trying to stop the host’s bid to gain a victory in Jacques Kallis’ last match.

At a venue where it suffered four defeats over the last five years, South Africa secured the match and then enhanced its chances of winning a contest that is often losing time to dark clouds moving in from the Indian Ocean.

At close on the fourth day of the second Test here at the Kingsmead Stadium, India scored 68 for two in its second innings after South Africa posted 500 and gained a 166-run first-innings lead. The host is now ahead by 98 runs.

The visitor lost Murali Vijay as the opener felt for Vernon Philander’s delivery. During the remainder of the evening, Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara stayed watchful and the latter’s forcing shot that bounced off Hashim Amla’s hand at forward short-leg, proved lucky for the batsman and awful for the injured fielder.

End of resistance

But India suffered a blow when Faf du Plessis plucked a one-handed over-head catch at short mid-wicket that snuffed Dhawan’s resistance and with that the host gained an edge.

On a Sunday of attrition, the rivals waited for the other to blink first and India finally picked the new ball after 146 overs, with the umpires forcing that move. It immediately coincided with a productive phase for the Proteas when the run-rate jumped to nearly seven.

Influenced by the pressing need to improve the lead, South Africa’s left-right combine of Robin Peterson and Faf du Plessis delivered the right tempo.

Zaheer Khan, a bit down from his usual high standards, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami, were all pinched for fours and the highlight was when Peterson, the bruiser-in-chief of the Indian attack, launched a switch-hit six off Rohit Sharma.

Meanwhile, du Plessis lofted Ishant and along with Peterson added 110 for the eighth wicket. Peterson eventually fell to Zaheer and then a drizzle intervened and tea was advanced with South Africa on top and India having a lot to ponder along with its steaming cup.

After that last break, the visitor snapped up the remaining two wickets with its best bowler Ravindra Jadeja (six for 138) deservedly getting the last to fall — Morne Morkel.

Inexplicable tactics

In the morning amidst sparsely-populated stands, Kallis (115) marched towards his 45th Test hundred. India inexplicably persisted with the old ball and the legend cover-drove Zaheer and flicked Jadeja. At the other end, night-watchman Dale Steyn mixed obduracy with the tail-ender’s lucky swish and a frustrating partnership (86 for the sixth-wicket) from the Indian perspective, took shape.

Kallis, went through three deliveries on 99 against Jadeja, in which once the ball nearly rolled onto his stumps. And while nervous laughter ensued in the South African dressing room, Kallis picked a single off the left-arm spinner, removed his helmet, raised his bat and acknowledged the applause a touch long.

Just as South Africa extended its lead over India, Kallis, in his last Test, was not finished with number-crunching. Next in line was Rahul Dravid’s 13,288, the third highest aggregate in Tests and Kallis eased past that with a dab to third-man.

Shortly after, Kallis top-edged a sweep and Jadeja had his fifth wicket. Kallis walked away to a standing ovation. He found appreciation from Zaheer, who offered a warm handshake and as he climbed the stairs into the dressing room, his team-mates lined up reverentially and Graeme Smith kissed the great man’s head.

Zaheer then dismissed Steyn and the cat-and-mouse game between the rivals — South Africa trying to build a decisive lead and India working hard to stymie that even if it meant using an extremely old ball — continued towards lunch (395 for seven), after which Smith’s men moved ahead.

The Indian batsmen now have one last day to save the game and reiterate their credentials.

Scoreboard

India — 1st innings: 334.

South Africa — 1st innings: Graeme Smith c Dhawan b Jadeja 47 (81b, 7x4), Alviro Petersen c Vijay b Jadeja 62 (100b, 8x4), Hashim Amla b Shami 3 (18b), Jacques Kallis c Dhoni b Jadeja 115 (316b, 13x4), A.B. de Villiers c Kohli b Jadeja 74 (117b, 9x4), J-P. Duminy lbw b Jadeja 28 (82b, 4x4), Dale Steyn c Dhoni b Zaheer 44 (94b, 7x4), Faf du Plessis (run out) 43 (70b, 4x4), Robin Peterson c Vijay b Zaheer 61 (52b, 9x4, 1x6), Vernon Philander (not out) 0 (3b), Morne Morkel c & b Jadeja 0 (2b); Extras (b-3, lb-15, w-2, nb-3): 23; Total (in 155.2 overs): 500.

Fall of wickets: 1-103 (Smith), 2-113 (Amla), 3-113 (Alviro Petersen), 4-240 (de Villiers), 5-298 (Duminy), 6-384 (Kallis), 7-387 (Steyn), 8-497 (Robin Peterson), 9-500 (du Plessis).

India bowling: Zaheer Khan 28-4-97-2, Mohammad Shami 27-2-104-1, Ishant Sharma 31-7-114-0, Ravindra Jadeja 58.2-15-138-6, Rohit Sharma 11-1-29-0.

India — 2nd innings: Shikhar Dhawan c du Plessis b Peterson 19 (87b, 2x4), Murali Vijay c Smith b Philander 6 (13b, 1x4), Cheteshwar Pujara (batting) 32 (90b, 4x4), Virat Kohli (batting) 11 (26b, 1x4); Total (for two wkts., in 36 overs): 68.

Fall of wickets: 1-8 (Vijay), 2-53 (Dhawan).

South Africa bowling: Dale Steyn 7-5-5-0, Vernon Philander 6-2-9-1, Morne Morkel 6-2-11-0, Robin Peterson 9-2-23-1, J-P. Duminy 8-2-20-0.

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