Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers hit centuries as South Africa and India fought out an epic draw in the first Test at the Wanderers Stadium here yesterday.
Set a world record victory target of 458, South Africa finished eight runs short on 450 for seven after a day of tension and drama.
Du Plessis (134) and De Villiers (103) shared a fifth wicket partnership of 205 — a world record for a fifth wicket stand in the fourth innings of a Test match.
For much of the day, a draw seemed to be the best result that South Africa could hope for, but with De Villiers in particular batting with positive intent, the required run rate was always below five runs an over.
With Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni forced to set defensive fields, De Villiers was bowled with 56 runs required in 13.5 overs, attempting to run the ball down to third man but edging it into his stumps.
Vernon Philander, who hit a half-century in the first innings, joined Du Plessis and pushed the score along while Du Plessis remained rock solid.
With 20 needed off four overs, Du Plessis pulled Zaheer Khan for four but was then run out by a direct hit from Ajinkya Rahane at mid-off as he attempted to retain the strike.
Du Plessis, who saved a Test with a century against Australia in similar circumstances on his debut in Adelaide last year, batted for 395 minutes, faced 309 balls and hit 15 fours.
South Africa settled for the draw but Dale Steyn hit the last ball of the match from Shami for six to leave the hosts tantalisingly close.
“We showed a lot of mental strength not to fade away. I thought Faf and Ab’s knocks would go down as the best in all time,” said South Africa captain Graeme Smith.
“You gotta back the guys’ decision out there. The run out was unfortunate, the win would have been incredible, but we’ve still done very well to take it this far.”
Dhoni praised his attack for seeing his side through to a draw. “There was a point of time in this Test match when we could have lost easily.
This is a big learning experience for our fast bowlers as to when and how much to attack. During the middle overs they attacked a bit too much,” Dhoni said.
“I am very happy with the performance if you consider the time we had for preparation. We only had a basic amount of knowledge of the conditions having played those ODI games.
When we play outside India, we play with three fast bowlers and a spinner. The spinner normally doesn’t have much to do in the first innings, so there is a lot of pressure on the fast bowlers. We needed a big effort from the quicks and they delivered,” he added.
Kallis, who made 34, looked surprised when he was given out by umpire Rod Tucker. Replays showed the ball had come off an inside edge.
In a series in which the Decision Review System is not being used, it was the first major error made by umpires Tucker and Steve Davis.
India (1st innings) 280
South Africa (1st innings) 244
India (2nd innings) 421
South Africa (2nd innings)
A Petersen b Mohammed Shami 76
G Smith run out (Rahane) 44
H Amla b Mohammed Shami 4
F du Plessis run out 134
J Kallis lbw b Zaheer Khan 34
Ab de Villiers b I Sharma 103
JP Duminy b Shami 5
V Philander not out 25
D Steyn not out 6
Extras (b2, lb7, nb2, w8) 19
Total (7 wkts, 136 overs) 450
Fall of wickets 1-108 (Smith), 2-118 (Amla), 3-143 (Petersen), 4-197 (Kallis), 5-402 (De Villiers), 6-407 (Duminy), 7-442 (Du Plessis)
Zaheer Khan 34-1-135-1
I Sharma 29-4-91-1 Mohammed Shami 28-5-107-3
R Ashwin 36-5-83-0
M Vijay 1-0-3-0
MS Dhoni 2-0-4-0
V Kohli 6-0-18-0
Result: Match drawn
Series: The two-match series is tied at 1-1