Out of the Kanpur dust on Sunday evening rose an Indian victory that might never have been. On a cracked, dry and disintegrated pitch where every run was vital and every wicket a lottery ticket come good, India were as clinical as they were lucky.
The cricket never rose to the greatest quality, save Sourav Ganguly’s defiant 87. In the conditions, it wasn’t the best performances that were rewarded the most — rather it was the mistakes that cost the dearest.
One session of madness did India in at Motera; at Green Park, a string of little events conjured up a win. An unexpected partnership for the last wicket, a couple of catches dropped by some of the best fielders in the world, a marginal umpiring decision going India’s way — all came together.
That said, South Africa showed a collective lack of resolve to attack. “India’s bowlers did not allow us to play as freely as we would have liked to,” Graeme Smith said at the end of the game. The relief was palpable — a 1-1 result in a tough away tour like India is not bad for South Africa to end a long subcontinental sojourn.
India will be relieved, but not because they’ve managed a 1-1 draw. They should have won this series — despite the dead Chennai wicket and the sporting one of Ahmedabad. Kanpur could’ve gone either way, and a 2-0 result would really have been a massive downer.