| Indian players celebrate the fall of Faf du Plessis’ wicket, at the Wanderers, on Sunday |
Calcutta/Johannesburg: The first cricket Test between India and South Africa ended in a nail-biting draw, but not before the home team nearly pulled off a world record run chase on the final day, here on Sunday.
Set a stiff target of 458 for victory, the hosts rode on centuries by Faf du Plessis (134) and AB de Villiers (103) to very nearly pull off a sensational victory, but in the end fell short by just eight runs (450/7).
In a riveting match both teams had chances of winning the game in the nerve-wracking final session on a Wanderers track that showed no signs of deterioration.
India needed eight wickets on Sunday, but a stunning 205-run partnership between Du Plessis and De Villiers denied the visitors a chance to take a lead in the two-Test series.
South Africa were within sniffing distance of a historic win on the back of their fifth-wicket partnership, as they inched closer to the improbable target of 458 runs.
Had it been achieved, it would have been the biggest ever successful run chase in Test history.
At one stage, it looked like the Proteas would romp home as they needed just 64 runs from the last 16 overs with six wickets in hand. But Ishant Sharma sent back De Villiers and Mohamed Shami dismissed JP Duminy before Du Plessis got run out to put a brake on their efforts.
That prompted South Africa to play safe and go for a draw. Du Plessis' knock came off 309 balls with 15 boundaries while De Villiers faced 168 balls and hit 12 boundaries.
The two teams will now travel to Durban, where the second and final Test will begin from Thursday.
For India, Shami (3/107) was the pick of the bowlers. After dismissing Jacques Kallis for his 300th wicket in 89 Tests, Zaheer Khan (1/135) proved expensive on the final day of the match, even as Sharma (1/91) toiled hard.
South Africa started the last session of the day needing 127 more runs for a historic win. MS Dhoni gave the ball to Virat Kohli, interchanging the ends for Zaheer and Ishant who he deployed first.
The 150 of the partnership came in the 111th over. Two overs later, du Plessis celebrated his third Test hundred. De Villiers completed his 18th Test hundred in the 121st over.
Finally Shami was back in the 123rd, after an inexplicable gap of 34 overs. He immediately made the batsmen uncomfortable. De Villiers was bowled in the next over by Ishant, bringing an end to his partnership with du Plessis. At the other end, Shami bowled JP Duminy (5).
It was left to du Plessis to see this through and he nearly did, in the company of Vernon Philander (25 not out, 37 balls, 3 fours). But with victory in sight, in the 133rd over, du Plessis was run-out courtesy a direct hit from mid-off by Ajinkya Rahane.
With 16 needed off 19 balls, Dale Steyn (6 not out) came out to bat.
But Zaheer and Shami bowled fierce spells to keep the run-scoring in check. Philander and Steyn also played defensively, and did not attempt shots.
In the morning session, South Africa began the day at their overnight score of 138/2, with Alviro Petersen (76 not out) and du Plessis (10 not out) on strike.
Umpire Rod Tucker adjudged Kallis lbw, a decision that looked controversial, off Zaheer in the 61st over. He was out for 34 runs off 37 balls, as a huge inside edge rocked his front pads. But the umpire's finger went up and he became Zaheer’s 300th Test victim in his 89th Test.
Meanwhile, for the second Test in Durban, South Africa have included medium pacer Kyle Abbott in their squad.