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Wanderers epic ends in thrilling draw

South Africa blocks out final overs to end on 450 for 7, after heroic hundreds from du Plessis and de Villiers in chase of 458

Wanderers epic ends in thrilling draw - Cricket News
Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers (R) of South Africa take a run while Ishant Sharma of India looks on.
One of the most dramatic Test matches of all time in which neither team deserved to lose, and at different moments both seemed like dead-set winners, ended in draw where either team was in with a chance of winning even when the last over began. This Test will be written about and spoken about for centuries to come, and the two big heroes on the final day were Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, who stared history in the eye and refused to blink, putting together a 205-run fifth-wicket stand, the highest in the fourth innings in the game’s 2108-Test history. The Indian team, who put in a bigger collective effort than any it had in recent memory, will be disappointed it could not force the win, but such was South Africa’s resilience that the visitors will be happy to go into the Durban Test with a chance to win the series.
For the record, South Africa reached 450 for 7, and was eight runs adrift of the target India had set when the game was drawn on Sunday (December 22).
Du Plessis, who was sent out to bat at No. 4 on the penultimate day, ahead of Jacques Kallis and de Villiers, reprised his heroics of his debut Test in Adelaide in 2012, when he batted nearly seven and a half hours in the final innings to save the game. On the day, du Plessis batted normally in the most abnormal of situations. Faced with a stiffer target than had ever been chased in a Test match, du Plessis survived the good spells, left the dangerous deliveries alone and yet picked off the boundaries regularly enough to keep the scoreboard ticking over at more than three runs an over.
At the other end, du Plessis had de Villiers for company, and how they enjoyed themselves. Not in the traditional understanding of the word, in that they were not merrily whacking fours and sixes. But de Villiers fed off du Plessis and matched him stroke for stroke. Early in their association, when India was on an all-out attack, de Villiers reminded the crowd of his pedigree with cover-driving of the highest class. Later, when du Plessis, who had to take painkillers on the field for a sharp blow to his right hand, faced a tough period, de Villiers shepherded his junior partner along, protecting their association.
When de Villiers (103) dragged Ishant Sharma back onto his stumps, 56 runs were still needed, from 12.5 overs. It was not quite a tired shot, but de Villiers did not fully commit to the steer down to third man, and an angled bat left the door open for the ball to ricochet onto the stumps via the inside edge.
JP Duminy has probably never walked out to more pressure, but he did not show it, essaying a punchy straight drive back down the ground off Mohammad Shami, who came in for one last throw of the dice as the lights came on at the Wanderers. That drive encouraged the Indians, for it meant Duminy was looking to play his shots, which would keep the bowlers in the hunt. Sure enough, Duminy tried to repeat the stroke, and dragged back onto his stumps off Shami.
Vernon Philander, who had cracked 59 in the first innings, went after the bowling, while du Plessis sensibly saved himself at the other end, not merely conserving energy but also staying alive just in case India grabbed a couple of quick wickets and South Africa was forced to hang on for the draw. In the event, Philander showed great composure, South Africa went past its highest fourth-innings effort, the 425 for 6 it put on against England in 1947, and went into the last five overs needing 28.
Zaheer, pushing himself to the absolute limits of his physical ability, clocked in the high 130s even in his final spell, despite having sent down 31 overs in the innings prior to that. When he dropped short to du Plessis, though, the batsman showed he too was giving it his all, playing the perfect pull shot in front of square to send the ball to the midwicket fence. Du Plessis, wincing in pain, having put in a desperate dive to scamper a single after placing the ball to mid-off, had to peel himself off the ground when Ajinkya Rahane’s direct hit – an exact replay of his effort to remove Graeme Smith – left the batsman short. Du Plessis’s 134 had taken South Africa to within 16 runs of victory, and 19 balls still remained.
Shami sent down a maiden, and when Zaheer came on to bowl the penultimate over of the day, South Africa was still 16 adrift and India was in search of three wickets. With the field back on the fence, the single was on offer, but Philander turned it down, wanting to keep the strike and not expose his partner.
When Shami began the final over of the greatest run chase of all time – it mattered not a jot that South Africa did not get past the line – the magic number for the home side was still 16.  With only two runs coming off the first five balls, Steyn smacked the last one for six, but by then the fate of the game had been decided.
The dramatic final passage of play ensured that the other big talking point of the day, the dismissal of Kallis (34) adjudged lbw to Zaheer off a delivery that the batsman had clearly hit, was largely forgotten. Zaheer will remember the dismissal, for it made him only the second Indian medium-pacer, after Kapil Dev, to rack up 300 wickets in Tests.

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