South African captain Graeme Smith led a confident South African response after India lost their last five wickets for 19 runs on the second day of the third and final Test at Newlands on Wednesday.
South Africa were 144 for one at the close in reply to India’s first innings of 414.
Smith (76 not out) and Hashim Amla (50 not out) put on an unbeaten 130 for the second wicket. The left-handed Smith, who struggled for form throughout 2006 before finishing the year with a half-century in the second Test in Durban, batted aggressively.
He opened his score with a six off the first ball of the innings when an attempted pull against Zaheer Khan flew off a top edge over the fine leg boundary.
He reached his half-century off 64 balls and by the close had batted for 180 minutes, faced 111 balls and hit 11 fours and a six.
When he was on 31 he became the fifth South African to score 4000 Test runs. Smith played particularly positively against Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble, expected to be India’s danger man on a pitch which Indian century-maker Wasim Jaffer said was helping spin bowlers on the first day.
Although Kumble troubled both Smith and Amla by bowling into a rough patch outside a right-hander’s leg stump, he conceded 39 runs in 12 overs without bowling a maiden. Amla, who made only 18 runs in his first four innings of the series, joined Smith after Shanthakumaran Sreesanth struck an early blow for India.
AB de Villiers was caught behind by Dinesh Karthik off an inside edge to be Sreesanth’s 17th victim of the series. Amla’s first runs were scored with an edge past second slip off a ball from Kumble that turned sharply but he then batted solidly, reaching his fifty off 125 balls with six fours.
Earlier, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly made half-centuries but India’s tailenders collapsed against the accurate bowling of Shaun Pollock and debutant left-arm spinner Paul Harris, who both finished with four wickets. Pollock took four for 75 and Harris four for 129.
With the series locked at 1-1, India looked on course to bat South Africa out of the game as Tendulkar made a carefully-crafted 64 and India reached 337 with four wickets down. But Tendulkar was caught at slip off Harris shortly before lunch.
Ganguly and the hard-hitting Virender Sehwag put on 58 in 49 minutes for the sixth wicket before Sehwag’s dismissal sparked a collapse. Sehwag had raced to 40 off 50 balls with six fours and a six when he swept against Harris and Makhaya Ntini took a diving catch at deep backward square leg.
Pollock’s persistence paid off when he trapped Kumble leg before for nought and Harris picked up his fourth wicket when Mark Boucher pulled off a smart stumping as Zaheer Khan stretched forward and lost his balance.
Ganguly went for his shots and hit a six over long-on off Harris before Pollock picked up the last two wickets. Sreesanth was caught at gully before Ganguly lofted a catch to mid-off.
Ganguly made 66 off 75 balls with nine fours and a six.
Tendulkar started in watchful mode when he resumed on 28 not out. It took him more than an hour to hit his first boundary of the day but in an ominous sign for the South Africans he struck four sweetly-timed fours within 10 deliveries on either side of reaching his second half-century in successive matches.
But then Harris made a ball spin out of the rough outside leg stump and Tendulkar edged it to Jacques Kallis at slip. Tendulkar batted for 187 minutes, faced 130 balls and hit 11 fours.
South Africa, seeking to make good use of the second new ball, were only able to claim one early wicket, when Dale Steyn bowled VVS Laxman for 13 with a fast, straight delivery which uprooted the off stump.
The breakthrough came in the eighth over of the morning.
Ganguly ducked into a Steyn bouncer and was hit on the helmet before he had scored, requiring treatment on the field, and was dropped on 22 when Shaun Pollock could not hold a diving chance at mid-off, halfway to the boundary, off Harris.
India won toss
India 1st inns (overnight 254-3)
W Jaffer c Kallis b Steyn 116
†K D Karthik c Amla b Harris 63
*R Dravid c Boucher b Pollock 29
S R Tendulkar c Kallis b Harris 64
V V S Laxman b Steyn 13
S C Ganguly c Amla b Pollock 66
V Sehwag c Ntini b Harris 40
A Kumble lbw b Pollock 0
Z Khan st Boucher b Harris 1
S Sreesanth c Gibbs b Pollock 3
M M Patel not out 0
Extras (b5, lb4, w2, nb8) 19
Total (all out, 131.1 overs) 414
Fall: 1-153, 2-202, 3-240, 4-269, 5-337, 6-395, 7-395, 8-398, 9-407
Bowling: Steyn 27-12-58-2 (4nb); Ntini 26-4-107-0; Pollock 29.1-9-75-4; Kallis 12-4-36-0 (2w); Harris 37-3-129-4 (4nb)
South Africa 1st inns
*G C Smith not out 76
A B de Villiers c Karthik b Sreesanth 1
H M Amla not out 50
Extras (b3, lb7, nb7) 17
Total (one wkt, 41 overs) 144
To bat: J H Kallis, H H Gibbs, A G Prince, †M V Boucher, S M Pollock, D W Steyn, P L Harris, M Ntini
Bowling: Khan 10-0-39-0 (1nb); Sreesanth 11-4-36-1 (2nb); Kumble 12-0-39-0; Patel 7-3-19-0 (2nb); Sehwag 1-0-1-0 (1nb)
Series: 3-match series level 1-1
Test debut: Paul Harris (South Africa)
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pakistan) and D J Harper (Australia). TV umpire: M Erasmus. Match referee: R S Mahanama (Sri Lanka)
Previous matches: December 15-18 1st Test Johannesburg, India won by 123 runs. December 26-30 2nd Test Durban, South Africa won by 174 runs
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