India bowlers wore down South Africa’s monumental resistance to pull off a brilliant 337-run victory in the fourth Test in New Delhi on Monday, claiming five wickets in the final session in a gripping finish to the series, which the hosts swept 3-0.
Spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin overcame the slowness of the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch with lion-hearted bowling, but were still left to claim half the batting line-up with haze and poor light threatening an early close as South Africa fought to salvage a draw going into the final session of the match.
However, Umesh Yadav tore through the lower order, bowling Dane Vilas (13) in the first over after tea, and then removing Kyle Abbott (0) and Dane Piedt off successive overs in a sensational spell of fast bowling.
Ashwin struck in his first delivery after tea, having AB de Villiers (43) caught at leg slip with a vicious off-break that spun and bounced, reducing South Africa to 136 for 7 before the hosts ran through the tail.
India took the last five wickets in the space of five overs, for just seven runs. India’s 3-0 series victory over the top-ranked Test team lifted them from No 4 to 2 in the ICC rankings.
De Villiers’ marathon knock, just short of six hours, had raised hopes of pulling South Africa to a face-saving draw. He faced 297 balls, hitting six fours. His third wicket partnership with skipper Hashim Amla --- spanning 42.1 overs --- had frustrated India before the latter’s dismissal in the morning.
Ashwin claimed 5/61 for a seven-wicket haul in the match. Jadeja also finished with seven scalps while Yadav took five wickets.
Unlike the Mohali and Nagpur Tests --- the Bengaluru match in between was drawn after four days were washed out --- where the Proteas caved in within three days, the visiting batsmen made India work hard by their single-minded approach to defending.
Jadeja provided the big breakthrough in the morning when he bowled South Africa skipper Hashim Amla for 25 in the morning, ending his almost three-hour effort blocking everything. The left-arm spinner exploited the hardness of the second new ball, getting it to grip the pitch, turn and hit off-stump as Amla played forward for the straighter one.
It ended India’s frustration as Amla and AB de Villiers held firm for two-and-a-half hours, adding only 27 runs but consuming 253 deliveries, or 42.1 overs. Although there was no further success in the morning session, the uneven bounce on the Kotla pitch was becoming prominent.
Some deliveries squatted while two from Umesh Yadav exploded off the pitch and hit de Villiers on his hand and forearm. South Africa reached 94/3 at lunch as Faf du Plessis joined de Villiers to continue the ultra-defensive batting.
However, it was again Jadeja who struck again, this time trapping du Plessis with a straighter one that also kept low, having beaten him with the previous deliveries. Ashwin added his third wicket from the other end when he trapped JP Duminy with another delivery that kept low.
That reduced South Africa to 112 for five and also exposed the inexperienced lower order, raising Indian hopes of registering a well-fought victory.
Jadeja, who has had a phenomenal season as a bowler in domestic and international cricket, bowled 16.1 overs on the trot without conceding a run, broken only by a straight four hit by du Plessis (10). He removed the batsman soon after and Ashwin trapped JP Duminy (0) to expose the South Africa lower-order.