India beat South Africa to level series

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The Independent Online

Harbhajan Singh claimed five-wickets as India sealed a dramatic innings and 58-run victory on the final day of the second Test against South Africa at the Eden Gardens to draw the series 1-1 and retain their place at the top of the ICC rankings.

India, starting the day needing seven more wickets for victory, chipped away steadily at South Africa's line-up through the day, but Hashim Amla provided another twist in a match that ebbed and flowed with a brilliant, unbeaten 127.



Amla had raised hopes of a draw for South Africa with a final wicket stand with Morne Morkel (12) that had spanned more than 20 overs, but Harbhajan returned to snare Morkel with about 15 minutes remaining in the day.

Having already lost over a day to rain and bad light, India suffered another blow before play resumed as strike bowler Zaheer Khan was forced to sit out the final three sessions due to a leg muscle strain suffered during play yesterday.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni opened with part-time spinner Virender Sehwag and paceman Ishant Sharma, but shuffled his bowlers around and soon had spinners operating from both ends.



Harbhajan and leg-spinner Amit Mishra stuck admirably to the task, striking a probing line, but were thwarted for more than an hour in an extended morning session by Amla and Ashwell Prince (23).



Amla, on 49 overnight, went past the half-century mark and had painstakingly constructed a 47-run stand with Prince before the latter was dismissed by Harbhajan.



The off-spinner had the out-of-form left-hand batsman in all sorts of trouble and eventually had him dislodged with a ball that was pitched just outside off, Prince chipping carelessly to Ishant at mid-off.



Mishra then claimed his third scalp, trapping De Villiers (three) plumb in front with a googly while he played down the wrong line and the Proteas hobbled into the lunch interval still 183 runs behind, but crucially with only five wickets in hand.



India renewed their push for victory in the afternoon session with vigour and Harbhajan had JP Duminy's scalp near the start of the session.



Duminy (six) rocked back to defend a delivery that was pushed slightly quicker through the air, misjudged the line completely and was hit on the back pad right in front.



South Africa were still 175 behind at that stage and Amla - the last recognised batsman - was left waging a lone battle with the tail.



Dale Steyn hardly troubled the Indians as he went quickly, leg before to Harbhajan who had shifted his line of attack from over to around the stumps.



Wayne Parnell (22), showing a far better technique against the spinners than most of the middle-order batsmen, stalled India's attack but was let off on 14 when Suresh Raina, on the field for the injured Gautam Gambhir, grassed a catch at fourth slip.



Amla had moved into the 90s with consecutive boundaries off Ishant and raised his ninth Test century and third of the series with another off Mishra, who had shared the second new ball.



Parnell, however, was extracted in the fourth over after the tea interval, momentarily losing composure and handing Ishant his first success despite a strong showing from the medium-pacer.



Parnell went tamely, chipping a full delivery straight to Harbhajan at mid-on, his dismissal ending a stubborn eighth-wicket stand that had yielded 70.



Paul Harris (four) hung around for a while, negotiating 24 deliveries, but his resistance too was ended by Ishant, as he perished to an edge.



Morkel then joined Amla and India were put under severe pressure as the pair stood firm.



Even Sachin Tendulkar, who rarely bowls these days following a shoulder injury, twirled his arm without success.



But Harbhajan eventually trapped Morkel in front, sparking wild celebrations in the stands and on the pitch.



Harbhajan finished the day with five for 59, while Mishra ended with three for 78.



Amla was named man of the match though for his heroics. He finished the series with an average of 494 - the second highest, behind Wally Hammond, in the history of Test cricket.



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