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Prajakta Pawar in Mumbai 22 December 2013 - 09:54pm IST

Report: South Africa vs India - 1st Test, Day 5

du Plessis, de Villiers deny India win at Wanderers

In a riveting game of cricket, South Africa pulled off an improbable draw in the first Test against India. Centurions Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers denied India victory as they took the game to a rare nail-biting finish in a Test. du Plessis fashioned the draw with a remarkable 134 and he was complemented by AB de Villiers (103) as they chased 458.

At the start of the last day, the match was precariously poised with the visitors needing eight wickets, while the hosts requiring 320 runs for a win. Although the match was tipped in favour MS Dhoni’s men, the home team too had a formidable batting line-up. When play ended, SA were 450 for the loss of seven wickets, just eight short of what would have been a record-breaking win in Tests.

Earlier, in the fifth over of the day, Mohammed Shami dismissed Alviro Petersen to give India a crucial breakthrough. A length ball from the young pacer took the inside edge of the bat and crashed the opener’s stumps to send him back for 76. Jacques Kallis then joined Faf du Plessis, but 54 runs later, the experienced campaigner became Zaheer Khan’s 300th Test wicket. Kallis added momentum to the innings with a 37-ball 34-run knock before being trapped lbw.

However, those were the only two wickets that India got in the first session, while the hosts added 98 runs during that period. du Plessis was on 42 with AB de Villiers on 24 when SA went to lunch at 236 for four.

The partnership that had begun to take shape in the first session blossomed as both batsmen batted watchfully and utilised every opportunity to score off the Indian bowlers. A few overs after lunch, du Plessis pulled Shami to get to his 50, and five overs later, de Villiers pulled the bowler to reach his half-century.

Although Zaheer’s probing line posed a few questions to the batsmen, it could not get the visitors a much-needed wicket, and the duo even took the Proteas past the 300-run mark. While de Villiers impressed with his strokeplay, du Plessis held up one end to help keep the match hanging in the balance. Without losing a wicket in the session, the duo took the team to 331 for four at tea. du Plessis batting on 88 and de Villiers on 72 fought it out in the middle as they took on the Indian with aplomb.

The battle continued in to last session as the Zaheer-led attack bent its back. In the pacer’s second over of the session, de Villiers dispatched him through the cover region twice to collect eight from it. The pair approached their well-deserved centuries as the visitors toiled to no avail. A back-foot punch to collect a four by du Plessis off the left-arm pacer took the flourishing partnership past 150.

Having held his nerve to keep the team in fray, du Plessis brought up his century with a cracking shot to mid-wicket. Scoring at a steady pace, the SA pair reduced the deficit to less than 100 runs. They also brought up the highest fourth-innings total against India in the process.

de Villiers reached his century with a single to thirdman just before the drinks break and in the process reduced the deficit to 66. With a boundary over mid-wicket off Ishant, du Plessis took the partnership past 200 and followed it up with a single to bring up the 400 for his team.

Ishant gave India the wicket of de Villiers in his next over. The delivery took the inside edge and toppled the bails to send de Villiers back for 103. With SA 56 runs short of the target, JP Duminy joined du Plessis in the middle and was tested by the tall pacer as India had a minimum of 12.5 overs to claim the remaining five wickets.

Duminy struck Shami straight down the ground to add four to the tally, but was castled later in the over by the young paceman. The pacers – especially Zaheer and Ishant – bowled long spells as they worked to keep their team in the game.

However, Vernon Philander, who had struck a fighting half-century in the first innings, aided du Plessis in taking the innings forward. With SA 16 away, a direct hit from Ajinkya Rahane at mid-off saw the back of du Plessis. The middle-order batsman’s remarkable innings, which brought the match down to the wire, ended when he tried to sneak in a single.

Philander and Dale Steyn were then denied the required runs by the Indians as they ensured that they don’t lose the game.

Man of the Match : Virat Kohli for scoring 119 and 96 runs in the first and second innings respectively