Delhi’s fourth and last test match was played amid ongoing criticism of test-match pitches at Mohali and Nagpur. While there was no need to assess conditions of the washed-out Bangalore test, after three-and-half day’s play in the Kotla test, India looked like heading for a 3-0 whitewash. There was hardly any chance that South Africa could overhaul the 480-run deficit in the fourth innings. On the fourth day, Proteas openers Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma came in 5 overs before lunch and India struck by taking Elgar’s wicket before the teams went out for food. With five sessions’ play still remaining, South Africa looked like heading for another dismal loss. But what followed after lunch on that day and the next; was beyond the imagination of cricket’s most die-hard enthusiast. Led by skipper Hashim Amla, South African batsmen began blocking ball after ball. Long hops, full-tosses, lollypops, short and utterly punishable deliveries were all blocked with extreme focus. The test match entered the final day and their stubborn defiance continued. Even after Amla got out, South Africa still had de Villiers, who refused to get tempted. Just when it looked that South Africa would pull off the most miraculous draw in test-match history, Umesh Yadav’s three-wicket burst tilted the match decisively in India’s favor. To their big relief, India walked away with a 337-run test and 3-0 series victory.
On day one, India had won the toss and batted first. Yet again, it was a turning track but this time, India bore the brunt as Dane Piedt sent four batsmen back to the pavilion with his off-breaks in the early stages. With Kyle Abbott also taking two wickets, India were reduced to a woeful 139/6 in the 54th over. However Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin batted well and India recovered to 334 all out on second day. Rahane scored this series’ first hundred while Ashwin finished with a well-deserved fifty. The match then took the color of Mohali and Nagpur as Indian spinners dominated South African batsmen. After Umesh Yadav sent back Dean Elgar in the 15th over, Ravindra Jadeja didn’t allow the incoming batsmen to settle down. Ashwin, Yadav and Ishant Sharma were the only other bowlers, whom Virat Kohli employed and after bowling the visitor out for 121, derived a huge 216-run first innings advantage. Rather than forcing follow-on, India decided to bat for the second time and declared their second innings closed at 267/5 just before lunch on the fourth day after Rahane reached his second century of the match.
Now South Africa needed 481 runs in their second innings to win the match. It was a tall order and in the 5 overs before lunch they lost Dean Elgar’s wicket and ended at 5/1. Suddenly, South Africa decided to adopt an out-of-the-world strategy. They simply refused to be lured to all manners of temptation. After playing 67 overs after lunch on the fourth day, the visitors added just 67 more and only lost Bavuma, who blocked 117 balls for his 34 runs. On the final day of the match, the story continued as Amla and AB de Villiers kept the work in progress and irritated India’s bowlers even more. Here was a pair of the world’s biggest hitters and de Villiers had a record-breaking 31-ball ODI hundred on his name. In test matches too, Amla and de Villiers have proved their mettle. In the 2010 Centurion test against India de Villiers had smashed Ishant Sharma, Jaydev Unadkat, Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh to reach a century in just 75 balls, while the next fastest test-match hundred in 87 balls was recorded by Amla against Australia. But in Delhi, the two refused to budge from their pre-determined stance and remained together until the 85th over of the innings, when Amla was bowled by Ravindra Jadeja for 25 scored off 244 balls. Successive batsmen adopted the same strategy with de Villiers guiding them at the other end. On and on they went and in 31 overs between lunch and tea, they progressed from 94/3 to 136/5. With just one session remaining, South Africa almost achieved their objective as Kohli ran out of ideas. Then just after tea, Umesh Yadav returned to take the wicket of Dane Vilas and with Ashwin removing the dangerous de Villiers at the same score, India were back in the game. Yadav got rid of Abbott and Piedt to make it 143/9 and when Ashwin bowled out Morne Morkel, it was celebration time for India.
The manner in which India won will never be revealed by the scorecard unless someone conducted a serious scrutiny. Bavuma, Amla de Villiers, du Plessis and Vilas exercised tremendous patience and offered unparalleled resistance. South Africa’s second innings total of 143 took 143.1 overs, which is less than a run per over. AB de Villiers played 297 balls for just 43 runs and du Plessis’ 10 runs consumed 97 balls. The commitment to the cause was complete and India were lucky that mistakes were made in the end.