India dominated South Africa on Sunday to win the third Test by eight wickets inside three days, squaring the series 1-1 and retaining their world number-two Test ranking.
In an extraordinary final day, India turned what had been an evenly poised match at the start of play into a rout.
Trailing by 60 runs on first innings, South Africa were bundled out for 121 in their second, losing their last six wickets for 31 runs on a deteriorating pitch that aided the spinners. It was South Africa’s third-lowest total against India.
Ace spinner Harbhajan Singh — who opened the bowling in the second innings to demonstrate the dominance of spin — snared 4-44 and part-time offbreak bowler Virender Sehwag claimed a career-best 3-12, leaving India with an easy victory target of 62.
India sprinted to 64-2 to spike South Africa’s hopes of winning their second Test series on Indian soil in eight years. South Africa had posted 265 in its first innings and India responded with 325.
India started day three with a stubborn 10th-wicket stand of 46. Resuming at the overnight score of 288-9, Shantakumaran Sreesanth (29) and Ishant Sharma (14 not out) defied South Africa’s attack for nearly an hour.
Sreesanth survived two edged shots that went through the slips cordon before their resistance finally ended when Sreesanth was caught by Ashwell Prince at short cover off left-arm spinner Paul Harris (3-101).
Sreesanth then consolidated India’s advantage when he trapped opener Neil McKenzie (14) lbw.
Singh then had Hashim Amla (0) caught bat-pad by short leg Wasim Jaffer to send India to lunch on a high, but the game still appeared in the balance.
It was when Sehwag snared Jacques Kallis (15) and skipper Graeme Smith (35) in the space of 13 deliveries, leaving South Africa tottering on 88-4, that the hosts took control of the Test.
Kallis struck just one boundary in a painstaking one-and-a-half-hour knock intended to shore up South Africa’s innings, but fell to Jaffer’s second catch at forward short-leg, this time off Sehwag.
Sehwag, having seen Prince dropped with the next delivery, soon struck a decisive blow by clean bowling Smith around his legs. Smith, whose first boundary came off his 67th delivery, had hung on grimly for two-and-a-half hours.
The innings crumbled thereafter. AB de Villiers (7) became Singh’s second victim when he was snapped by VVS Laxman at short square-leg, before paceman Sharma dismissed Mark Boucher (5) and Morne Morkel (0) in one over.
Prince (22 not out) saw wickets tumble at the other end as Singh removed Paul Harris (0) and Dale Steyn (7) before Sehwag wrapped up the innings by dismissing Makhaya Ntini (0).
Eager to end the game on Sunday and match the three-day win that South Africa enjoyed in the second Test, India lost Sehwag (22) and Jaffer (10) before Sourav Ganguly (13 not out) and Rahul Dravid (18) took it to the target. — Sapa-AP