A cursory glance at the scorecard would lead one to believe that India won the Feroz Shah Kotla Test at Delhi, comprehensively and easily. With a 337-run victory one cannot deny that it was indeed a comprehensive victory for India. But, what the scorecard will not reveal that South Africa did not let India achieve the win with ease. Their batsmen blocked and blocked starting from the second hour of play on day four. With such an approach, taking the game into the final session of the match was a commendable effort. AB de Villiers led the resistance, playing out 297 balls, Hashim Amla hung around for 244, but in the end, the task was too steep even for them.
When play resumed after tea on the final day, South Africa had a realistic chance of playing out a draw, especially with de Villiers still around, and half of the wickets in hand. But, the pitch had become too tough to survive on by then. Ravichandran Ashwin's guile was back at work while Umesh Yadav did enough to justify his selection over Amit Mishra. Not only did Yadav bowl fast, he also reverse swung the ball to deadly effect. He bowled Dane Vilas and Kyle Abbott and had Dane Piedt brilliantly caught by Wriddhiman Saha as the little wicket-keeper dived in front of slips. It was the kind of inspiration India were searching for over 100 overs.
At the order end, Ashwin also got into his rhythm. It was he who broke de Villiers' seemingly unending vigil at the crease. The star batsman, who took a couple of painful blows on the gloves, could not keep out an off-break that got big on him. The ball again took his gloves, but this time went into the hands of leg-slip. Even as Yadav went about cleaning the tail at one end, Ashwin fittingly got the final wicket. Morne Morkel, usually a decent bat, failed to read the line of an Ashwin delivery, and had his stumps shattered. South Africa lost their last five wickets in the space of 27 balls, Ashwin had yet another five-for, enough to earn him the man of the series, as India won 3-0.
In spite of their impressive resistance the previous day, achieving a draw was always going to be a herculean task for the visitors. At the halfway stage though South Africa had a realistic chance of achieving the seemingly impossible. This was thanks in main to Amla and de Villiers, who showed tremendous resolve in continuing to bat as they did for most of day four. While Amla displayed near impeccable technique against the spinning deliveries, de Villiers avoided trouble by playing as late as possible. It eventually needed the brilliance of Ravindra Jadeja to send Amla back. The left-arm spinner cleaned him up, getting one to drift in and then spin away.
Jadeja had provided India with the much-needed opening. The out-of-form Faf du Plessis walked in amid immense pressure. Jadeja troubled him and almost had him leg before and caught behind. Du Plessis however soon settled in, and joined de Villiers in the block fest. For the next hour or so, the duo bored out the Indians. Jadeja it was again who broke du Plessis' resistance. He got one to slid with the arm and beat du Plessis' defence. JP Duminy was edgy from the time he walked in. It was not surprising then that Ashwin got him plumb in front. De Villiers battled on valiantly, but it was always going to be a lost battle.
-- By A Cricket Correspondent