Delhi Test: Amla, AB blocking an Indian win

Can South Africa thwart India’s bullish march? Every cricket follower will eagerly await to know the answer when South Africa enter the Feroze Shah Kotla here with the task of batting out the whole of Monday to redeem some pride in the fourth and final Test.

Hashim Amla... fighting hard.   -  PTI

Ajinkya Rahane celebrates his second century of the match.   -  AP

Can South Africa thwart India’s bullish march?

Every cricket follower will eagerly await to know the answer when South Africa enter the Feroze Shah Kotla here with the task of batting out the whole of Monday to redeem some pride in the fourth and final Test.

The South Africans bent hard and batted for 72 overs on the fourth day to raise hopes of a draw in the touring camp after Ajinkya Rahane hit his second century of the match in the first session.

When India declared their second innings at 267 for five and set the Proteas a massive target of 481 runs in the pre-lunch session, the script was loaded heavily in favour of the home side.

However, at close of play on the penultimate day, with South Africa at 72 for two in their second essay and Hashim Amla (23) and AB de Villiers (11) at the crease, the twist in the tale had slowly unfolded.

Patience was the watchword for both the teams on a track which had hardly any assistance for the bowlers and offered little sympathy for shot-making.

Barring a brief spell in Nagpur, the South African batsmen were not able to show character in the whole series. With a steely resolve to stop India from walking away with a 3-0 win, the visitors showed application like never before.

South Africa crawled like a snail to record one of their slowest performances ever. The run rate hovered around one. After all, accumulating runs was not important, killing time was.

Amla took 46 deliveries to get off the mark, while de Villiers consumed 33. But it was worth a wait for the tourists even as Virat Kohli kept rotating the bowlers frequently.

Except for part-timer Shikhar Dhawan, all the home bowlers had a sub-two economy. The spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, gave away less than one run per over with the South African batsmen monotonously blocking away ball after ball.

It was a reminder of South Africa’s defiant draw against Australia in the second of the three-match series in Adelaide. Chasing 430 in the fourth innings, the Proteas had batted out 148 overs to gather 248 for eight. The conditions were different though.

After Ashwin had Dean Elgar caught at slip just before lunch, India struggled to make further inroads in the second session.

Opener Temba Bavuma (34) and Amla played watchfully to frustrate the Indians. Bavuma showcased his compact technique and Amla gave him good company as the duo not only collected 44 runs for the second wicket but also expended crucial hours in the middle.

Bavuma became Ashwin’s second victim, but de Villiers, who came next, restrained himself admirably to play for the team’s cause.

Earlier, resuming the day at 190 for four, the host lost Virat Kohli in the third over of the morning. The Indian captain was trapped in front to a sharp Kyle Abbott delivery that kept low. It ended the 154-run fifth wicket stand between Kohli and Rahane.

Nevertheless, Rahane, beginning from his overnight score of 52, maintained his focus and unleashed some big shots to enable India to gather runs at a brisk pace.

Rahane was more confident in approach and decisive in his shot selection. He struck three well-timed sixes — through an upper-cut off Morne Morkel and two massive pulls off Imran Tahir and Dean Elgar — and a few fours. He forged an unbroken 56-run stand with Wriddhiman Saha (23).

Rahane played Tahir to midwicket for a single to complete his second century in the same match. He became the fifth Indian to score hundreds in both innings of a Test. Vijay Hazare, Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid and Kohli had achieved the feat earlier.

Also, this was the first such occurrence at the Kotla. India declared immediately after Rahane’s century.

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