3rd Test: Ashwin’s career-best spins India to series win


R Ashwin who delivered the knock-out punch to hand South Africa their first away series loss in nine years. His career-best figures of 7/66 bowled the visitors out for 185, chasing a improbable 310 on a spicy surface, to give India the series 2-0 and himself match figures of 12/98.

The first session witnessed a Test match special. With a turning surface on offer and series on the line, two of South Africa’s exceptional batsmen were defying all odds. In perhaps the most gruelling session of the series, through Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, South Africa showed the character they’d been missing so far, until Amit Mishra’s two wickets in two overs swung the arc back in India’s favour, reducing them to 151/6 at tea. The final four wickets belonged to Ashwin, who returned to remove Duminy – out leg-before offering no shot – before wiping out the tail.

For all those who questioned the pitch for the completion of three innings inside two days, had their ‘rank-turner’ concept go awry. Amla and du Plessis’ determination showed how, if you adapt well, conditions can be overcome. With all decks stacked against them, the pair was involved in the biggest partnership of the series (72) for South Africa, and did something that only one other batsman had done – batted over 100 balls.

Scoring 310 was always going to be an ambitious ask, so when 46 runs were scored in the second session it was understandable. There wasn’t a boundary scored for over 24 overs, and neither batsman showed any signs of hurrying along. With survival on their mind, they were up to the task as far as the first part of the script was concerned. Plenty of deliveries turned and bounced, but thankfully for the batsmen, they survived.

Mishra bowled the ball of the session to finally snap the gritty stand. To a loopy delivery, Amla bent forward, got and edge and it carried to slip. In the next over, du Plessis, trying to pull a ball that kept low, had his middle stump rattled. Duminy then cracked a couple of fours to conclude a session that eventually belonged to India.

Earlier, the morning session saw only two wickets go down, the least in a single session of the day. Amla and du Plessis overcame the early loss of Dean Elgar and the dangerous AB de Villiers to finish on 105/4 at lunch. They form the core of this under-performing South African middle order, and with a combined 53 runs in six innings, wouldn’t have entered the third day with much confidence. But their steely resolve dismissed any predictions of the game getting over before lunch.

Elgar started the day positively with a six off Ashwin, but much like the day before, his was the first wicket to fall, to the same bowler. De Villiers expectedly walked out to cheers from the crowd and looked a bit tentative in order to avoid a pair. With a single towards midwicket and a loft off Jadeja for four, de Villiers seemed to have adopted the approach Duminy did in the first innings. He looked good, before a magical over from Ashwin mounted pressure and halted his progress.

Both batsmen morphed themselves from shaky starters to two batsmen with a plan. Besides a couple of narrow half-chances – an edge each off Ishant Sharma and Mishra, one that flew past Saha and the other that was tough to hold on to – the rest of the effort was admirable. du Plessis launched Jadeja down the ground that brought up South Africa’s hundred.

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