CAPE TOWN: Set a daunting target of 340 for a win, India opted to play safe and bat their way to a draw in the third and final Test against South Africa to end the high-profile series 1-1 on Thursday.
The Indians never made an effort to chase down the stiff target and the batsmen played out time to crawl to 166 for three in their second innings before play was called off to mark the end of a fascinating three-match series.
Although the Indians could not achieve their dream of a maiden away series win over South Africa, it was a creditable achievement for the visitors as they drew a Test series for the first time on the African soil. The result also meant that India maintained their number one ranking.
The visitors lost the first Test in Centurion by an innings and 25 runs but showed great character to bounce back and win the second Test in Durban by 87 runs.
The Indians could have entertained hopes of going for the target had Virender Sehwag (11) fired but the dashing opener fell cheaply to end the series without too may runs to his credit.
Gautam Gambhir defied an elbow injury and played a resolute knock of 64 to be the highest scorer in the second innings. Sachin Tendulkar (14) and VVS Laxman (32) were at the crease when play was called off after 82 overs.
The engrossing series between the two top ranked teams in the world will be remembered for Tendulkar’s historic 50th Test century and the batting heroics of Jacques Kallis who scored three centuries.
Faced with the stiff target, the two Indian openers Gambhir and Sehwag adopted a cautious approach and were more content in playing out the new ball without taking too many risks.
Both the South African pacemen Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel got some movement and bounce from the fifth day track at the Newlands. Some of the balls rose alarmingly but the two batsmen managed to get themselves out of the way.
In the very second over, Gambhir needed some on-field treatment after being hit by Morkel’s first delivery. The ball bounced sharply outside off stump and hit him on the elbow.
Both Sehwag and Gambhir were prompt to dispatch the loose deliveries to the boundary, both Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe being given that treatment.
Sehwag, who has not been among the runs right through the series, got a reprieve when he went for a cut and the ball just eluded the outstretched hands of substitute fielder JP Duminy at the point region.
But Sehwag could not capitalise on that chance and returned to the pavilion soon after, falling prey to Morkel who tested on his patience.
Sehwag leaned forward to defend a delivery which straightened after pitching and only succeeded in edging the ball to captain Graeme Smith in first slip.
The umpire checked whether it was a no ball from the third umpire and ultimately ruled the batsman out much to the jubilation of the home crowd.
Dravid, who joined the action after Sehwag’s dismissal, was quite content in defending following which India’s run rate fell sharply.
Resuming at the lunch score of 53 for one, both Gambhir and Dravid played cautiously and were just content in playing out time.
Barring the occasional aggressive shot, the two batsmen defended most of the balls and restrained from playing any strokes to the deliveries going outside the stumps.
Gambhir, who had scored 93 in the first innings, notched up his 16th half century when he cut Dale Steyn to the point boundary shortly after the lunch break.
With the experienced Jacques Kallis not on the field because of a rib injury, South African captain Smith bowled a few overs himself to make up for the loss of the fifth bowler.
Spinner Paul Harris got a few balls to jump from the rough and both the batsmen had to face a few anxious moments.
Dravid survived a confident leg before shout when he was struck on the pads off Harris but umpire Ian Gould ruled him not out. Television replays, however, showed that the ball was going to hit the middle stump but the umpire may have thought there was an inside edge.
But Dravid (31) did not survive for long with Lonwabo Tsotsobe providing the breakthrough for the hosts about half an hour before the tea break and bring some life back into the game.
Dravid tried to defend a short of length delivery off the front foot but could not middle it, edging the ball to Ashwell Prince in third slip.
Gambhir got a ‘life’ when he was on 62 with AB de Villiers spilling a sharp chance at silly point off Harris who looked quite dangerous on a wearing fifth day track.
Gambhir fell shortly after the tea break with Dale Steyn taking the wicket. Gambhir tried to get his bat out of the way to a bouncer from Steyn but the ball brushed his gloves and Boucher took a nice diving catch.(PTI)