Harbhajan engineers a miraculous win at Eden Gardens
by Jinu Sabastian

Ground:Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Scorecard:India v South Africa
Player:A Mishra, Harbhajan Singh, HM Amla
Event:South Africa in India 2009/10

DateLine: 18th February 2010


Harbhajan Singh bowled India to an exceptional win as India levelled the series and more importantly retained the number one spot. India won the match by an innings and 58 runs. Hashim Amla with an undefeated 127 fought a lone battle as he failed to garner any sort of support from the other batsmen. Harbhajan Singh responded to his skipper's call as he shouldered the mantle of the attack to take five crucial wickets including the final wicket to seal the win. The wicket of Kallis last evening just before the close of play was important as he was the only batsman along with Amla who could have saved the match.


The final day of the crucial Test match started under bright skies with South Africa needing its batsmen to stay at the crease while the Indian bowlers needing seven magical balls to level the series. The Indian side was hampered by the fact that Zaheer Khan was ruled out of the Test due to an injured knee and that meant the bowling load was to be shared by just three front-line bowlers. With just three main bowlers Dhoni did an exceptional job as skipper as he rotated the bowlers well to keep them fresh.


Dhoni surprised many by opening the bowling of the day with Sehwag and it very nearly yielded a result. Sehwag got one to bounce of the good length taking the shoulder of Prince's tentative prod only for the ball go through the unmanned gully region. Prince steadied his frayed nerves while Amla was unperturbed at the other end. Though the spinners troubled Prince, the southpaw hung in there doggedly as the pair ate into the two hours of the morning session frustrating the Indian bowlers. Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh bowled maidens after maidens as they built up the pressure but the South African batsmen simply resisted them. After two hours of resistance Prince finally cracked.


After the second drinks break during the first session, Harbhajan Singh went over the wicket and troubled Prince before finally snaring the southpaw. Prince (23, 80 balls, 1x4) tried to turn an off-break on the leg-side but the ball took the leading edge to Sharma at mid-off and the Indians were jubilant. Things became brighter for India when AB de Villiers (3, 16 balls) failed to read a brilliantly disguised googly from Mishra and was trapped leg before to give the Indians the ascendancy.


After lunch the visitors slumped further as Duminy continued to have a horror match. Harbhajan trapped Duminy (6, 22 balls, 1x4) who played back to a straighter one and then the off-spinner trapped Dale Steyn (1, 16 balls) with another straighter one from round the stumps. That opened up the sluice-gates for India but Parnell gave invaluable support to a battling Amla. With Amla being next to impossible to dismiss the Indian bowlers began to target the other batsmen.


Amla began to farm the strike expertly as the Indian bowlers began to get desperate as time passed. Parnell was protected against the off-spin of Harbhajan while Amla was shielded against Ishant Sharma. Amla moved to his second century of the match with a delicate flick through square-leg to keep the South African hopes burning.


Armed with the new ball, Ishant began to crank up pace as he troubled both the batsmen. The plan to get Parnell on the drive nearly worked as the southpaw drove loosely at an outswinger and edged to Raina at gully who put it down. It seemed that the moment had passed for India as the pair took the visitors to tea without further damage. But after tea Parnell suffered a rare moment of loss of concentration and it caused a serious damage to the South African side. Ishant after moving a couple of deliveries away from Parnell (22, 64 balls, 4x4) got one to straighten into the middle and leg stump which the southpaw flicked carelessly to mid-on where Harbhajan took an easy catch.


Harris (4, 24 balls, 1x4) did not stay for long as he edged an out-swinger from Ishant straight to Dinesh Karthik at third slip who gobbled up the catch with great delight of his team mates and the crowd. Just when the Indian side felt that they have broken through Morne Morkel gave invaluable support to Amla. The tall left-hander used his long reach to neutralise the spin that Harbhajan and Mishra generated. As the overs ticked by the Indian fielders began to get iffy as South African side fought tooth and nail to save the precious series lead. In desperation Dhoni threw the ball to Sehwag and Tendulkar for the elusive final wicket.


Amla (127 not out, 394 balls, 16x4) and Morkel (12, 60 balls, 3x4) survived a tense 20.4 overs before Dhoni gave Harbhajan a change of ends. Morkel survived two balls from Harbhajan before he played all-over a straighter one from the off-spinner to be trapped leg before. That wicket set of some rapturous celebration both on and off field which could have matched that famous win of 2001 against rampant Australia.