It was a thrill India certainly did not want, but the Belfast Indians loved every bit of it. 134 for no loss in the 29th over, needing just over a 100 more for a win to tie the series, India lost four wickets for eight runs --- and seemed to have lost their way.
Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Karthik --- the latter is also acquiring a reputation as a finisher of games now --- then combined to produce a stunning counter-attack as India finally got home with a bit to spare to end a five-match losing streak against the South Africans.
Things looked uncertain till the 48th over, bowled by Hall --- Yuvraj and Karthik smashed 14 runs off it. Yuvraj effortlessly flicked Hall for a six over backward square, the two ran the singles and twos like men possessed and suddenly, a target that was looking difficult to get was cut to nine of 12 balls.
India should not have been in that position. Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly had turned the clock back with a partnership of 134 in just over 29 overs. Tendulkar's was the knock that turned the tide as he countered Ntini's fire with flames of his own that scalded the South Africans.
Sourav Ganguly played a sensible supporting role and India were cantering towards the target. While Tendulkar took centrestage, Ganguly stepped in with regularity, smashing Ntini for four and the brave Thandi Tshabalala for a six.
Trouble hit India when Ganguly edged Langeveldt to gully for 42. India seemed to suddenly lose their nerve after that. Dravid was caught in several minds as he tried to negotiate a rising ball from Langeveldt, Tendulkar fell to Tshabalala as he tried to steer the ball. MS Dhoni went for a zero, bowled by Ntini.
India were in trouble, and even the rookie offie Tshabalala was allowed a maiden. But then Karthik and Yuvraj took over and that was that.
In the morning, after they ruled for 14 overs, it all turned Morne-ful for the Indians. Morne van Wyk, an understudy twice over, stepped into the spotlight with stunning effect.
Filling in for Graeme Smith and a likely successor to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, van Wyk strutted his stuff, defying India for 126 balls with an 82 that kept his team in the game. India struck early blows that seemed to be decisive --- with a young array of dashers and a motley crowd of bits-and-pieces players to follow, at 46/3, South Africa seemed in trouble.
In a moment of madness, AB de Villiers was the first to fall --- after three maidens by Zaheer Khan and RP Singh, going for the first runs off the bat, de Villiers was sent back by van Wyk. But the bowler, RP Singh, fielded the ball and rocketed it to Dravid at the top of the stumps; de Villiers' despairing dive was not enough.
Singh got Jacques Kallis with a clever variation; he forced the skipper on to his toes with one that was banged in, following it up with a full delivery. Kallis nibbled tentatively and edged it on to his stumps.
Zaheer got Herschelle Gibbs when the batsman smashed a short, wide ball straight to Karthik in the covers. The ball was rising steeply, there was a stiff, cold breeze, the only experienced bat remaining was Mark Boucher --- the South Africans were clearly in big trouble.
Van Wyk and Jean-Paul Duminy --- with a total of 13 ODIs between them before Friday --- then showed why the Proteas think the world of them. Van Wyk, clearly the more skilful of the two, took the attack to India. Strongly built, the opener is a powerful driver of the ball, possesses a steady temperament. After anxious moments against Zaheer at the start, he did not look troubled. He used his feet to reach the ball against the spinners. When it was kept short, he went back and pulled it through square or drove in the offside. He has the ability to turn the ball from off to the legside, a rare ability for a non-Asian.
India used four spin options and, surprisingly, Yuvraj turned out to be the day's best.