The dream looks far fetched, if not completely over. India can now at best hope to return home undefeated, not triumphant - the objective they had when they set out on the South African safari almost a month back.
The reason for the pessimism is the steep mountain of runs India will have
to climb on the last day for that unlikely first series victory in South Africa. The man who punctured their high hopes to a great extent was once again Jacques Kallis, who stroked his second hundred of the match with typical calm, braving a rib injury. Harbhajan captured seven wickets but was still overshadowed by Kallis.
The South Africa have set a stiff 340-run target. The instances of 300 plus targets chased down in a single day even on flattest of tracks against innocuous attacks are rare. Doing that against Steyn and Co. on a fifth day's Newlands pitch will be nothing short of a miracle.
India would be realistically looking forward to saving the match, and returning home with honours shared.
India, however, had their chance to create history. On Wednesday, they were just four wickets away from giving themselves a very good chance at upsetting the South African applecart. They had them down at 130 for six, and just needed to deliver the knockout punch by removing Kallis and the out-of-form Mark Boucher.
When push came to shove, the Indian bowlers were not up to the challenge and Kallis, like a wounded tiger, rose to the occasion yet again to play as great an innings as one would ever see. He stood his ground, grimacing in pain throughout the day to score a brilliant unbeaten 109.
"I don't think anyone understands the pain he's in at the moment. The doctor told me this is like someone breaking your rib. A lot is said about different cricketers around the world. In my opinion we have one of the greatest of all time in our own country and it would be nice if people realised it," said Boucher, who added 103 runs with Kallis.
S. Sreesanth was fined 10 percent of his match fee for kicking the boundary rope after two leg before appeals were turned down.