New Delhi: Ajinkya Rahane on Sunday achieved the rare distinction of scoring a century in each innings as India needed another eight wickets on the last day of the fourth and final cricket Test against a fighting South Africa to record a historic 3-0 series win in Kotla.
After being set a daunting target of 481 for a win, South Africa batted with extreme caution to crawl to a painstaking 72 for 2 in 72 overs at close of an eventful day at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
Ajinkya Rahane. Pic/PTI
In their bid to bat out for a draw, South African skipper Hashim Amla (23 batting, 207 balls) decided to defend anything and everything that came his way with his ultra-defensive approach.
Courtesy Rahane's unbeaten 100 off 206 balls¿ his second of the match, the hosts declared their second innings at 26 for five as skipper Virat Kohli signalled the end of the innings when the batsman completed his hundred. This was the sixth Test century of Rahane's career. Rahane also joined the elite list of Indian cricketers, who have reached three-figure mark in both innings of a Test match. Late Vijay Hazare (once), Sunil Gavaskar (thrice), Rahul Dravid (twice) and Virat Kohli (once) are the other Indian batsmen to have achieved the coveted milestone.
India is the only team that can win this Test match but with the pitch getting slower and the turn on offer not being vicious, it will be some sort of challenge for Ravindra Jadeja (0/10 in 23 overs) and Ravichandran Ashwin (2/29 from 23 overs) to get the remaining eight wickets on Monday.
The normally prolific AB de Villiers (11 batting ) also put his head down producing a dead bat to the spin twins as they found it difficult to breach the defences of visiting team's two most seasoned campaigners.
Such was the frustration for skipper Kohli that he introduced his opening duo of Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay into the attack trying to do something 'Out of the Box'.
De Villiers scored 11 off 91 balls and the first runs of the Amla-AB partnership came off 63 balls. At stumps, they had added 23 runs in 29.2 overs. The final session yielded 32 runs in 33 overs as the Proteas batsmen defended dourly. Amla took 46 balls to open and scored only six runs in his first 100 balls. If Amla and Co. manage to save the Test, it will certainly be regarded as one of the great match-saving knocks in the history of the game.
Amla's 46 balls to get off the mark is the fourth highest deliveries consumed after John Murray of England (80 balls vs Australia, 1962) Stuart Broad (62 balls vs NZ in 2013) and Grant Flower (51 balls vs NZ in 2000).
Opener Temba Bavuma (34, 117 balls) also showed resilience facing 104 balls which included three streaky boundaries and a six off Ravichandran Ashwin.
This is the first time that two South African batsmen in this series have played 100 balls each in a single innings. This was after opener Dean Elgar (4) was removed by Ashwin, who was introduced in the fourth over. The Proteas still need 476 runs for an improbable win.
Earlier, following his classy 127, Rahane once again produced a top quality innings that contained eight boundaries and three sixes, facing 206 balls. Rahane batted like a man possessed as he changed gears from a cautious to an attacking approach with effortless ease. Kyle Abbott was cut to the boundary while he used the pace of a short delivery from Morne Morkel to guide it over third-man fence for six. Once he reached 80, Rahane slog-swept a half volley from Imran Tahir over deep mid-wicket for his second six. In the very next over, Dane Piedt met with the same fate as Rahane danced down the track to hit another six.
While he played 152 balls for his 52 on Saturday, he took another 54 balls in the morning session to complete his remaining 48 runs. Wriddhiman Saha (23 not out) added 56 runs in only 14.1 overs with Rahane.
Skipper Kohli (88) must be a disappointed man as he missed out on a well-deserved 12th Test hundred, managing to add only five runs to his overnight score of 83. It was a delivery from Abbott that was angled in and i kept low after pitching, hitting Kohli in the leg-middle line. Umpire Bruce Oxenford ruled it in favour of the bowler after some deliberations.
In all, Kohli faced 165 balls hitting 10 boundaries as Rahane continued without much fuss. The Rahane-Kohli duo added 154 runs for the fifth wicket, which is by far the highest partnership for any wicket among the either teams in the series.
India (first innings) 334
South Africa (first innings) 121
India (second innings) (190/4 overnight)
Murali Vijay c Vilas b Morkel 3
Shikhar Dhawan b Morkel 21
Rohit Sharma b Morkel 0
Cheteshwar Pujara b Imran Tahir 28
Virat Kohli lbw b Abbott 88
Ajinkya Rahane not out 100
Wriddhiman Saha not out 23
Extras (lb 2, nb 2) 4
Total (five wickets declared in 100.1 overs) 267
Fall of wickets: 1-4 (Vijay, 4.6 overs), 2-8 (R Sharma, 6.1), 3-53 (Dhawan, 28.6), 4-57 (Pujara, 31.1), 5-211 (Kohli, 85.4)
Morne Morkel 21-6-51-3
Kyle Abbott 22-9-47-1
Dane Piedt 18-1-53-0
Imran Tahir 26.1-4-74-1
Dean Elgar 13-1-40-0
South Africa (second innings) (target: 481 runs)
Dean Elgar c Rahane b Ashwin 4
Temba Bavuma b Ashwin 34
Hashim Amla batting 23
AB de Villiers batting 11
Total (two wickets; 72 overs) 72
Fall of wickets 1-5 (Elgar, 3.6 overs), 2-49 (Bavuma, 42.4).
Ishant Sharma 12-7-16-0
Ravichandran Ashwin 23-13-29-2
Ravindra Jadeja 23-16-10-0
Umesh Yadav 9-6-6-0
Shikhar Dhawan 3-1-9-0
Murali Vijay 2-0-2-0
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and Bruce Oxenford (Australia)
Television umpire: C.K. Nandan (India)
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand)
Reserve umpire: Anil Chaudhary (India)