South Africa produced a gritty defensive performance to grind their way to 72/2 in the second innings to trail by 408 runs at the close after India declared their second stint at 267/5 on the penultimate day of the fourth and final cricket Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Sunday.
Ajinkya Rahane achieved the landmark distinction of two centuries in the same match as India declared their second innings after building up a lead of 480 runs. The Mumbai right-hander, who scored 127 in the first innings, remained unbeaten on 100 with eight boundaries and three sixes for the sixth Test ton of his career.
Rahane is the fifth Indian batsman to achieve the feat. The others who earned the distinction earlier were the late Vijay Hazare (once), Sunil Gavaskar (thrice), Rahul Dravid (twice) and current skipper Virat Kohli (once).
Chasing a mammoth victory target, the visitors lost opener Dean Elgar (4) early before Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma (34) and AB de Villiers came up with a solid defensive performance.
At the close, Amla and AB de Villiers were at the crease for South Africa.
Amla scored unbeaten 23 painstaking runs off 207 deliveries. He took 46 balls to open his account. De Villiers took 32 balls to get off the mark before inching his way to 11 by the close.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was the only successful Indian bowler on the day, returning figures of 2/29.
Umesh Yadav (0/6), Ishant Sharma (0/16), Ravindra Jadeja (0/10), Shikhar Dhawan (0/9) and Murali Vijay (0/2) all toiled away without any reward as the visitors went into a defensive shell.
Earlier, starting at the overnight score of 190/4, India lost captain Virat Kohli in the fifth over of the day.
Kohli scored 88 runs before being trapped leg before by pacer Kyle Abbott. The Delhi lad hit 10 boundaries during his 165-ball knock.
Abbott got Kohli with one that kept low after pitching outside off. Kohli’s dismissal brought to an end his 154-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Rahane.
The partisan home crowd at the Kotla, who were left stunned at Kohli’s dismissal, soon found their voice again as Rahane scored at a brisk clip and gradually approached his century.
The 27-year-old started to unleash the big shots as he approached his century, hitting leg-spinner Imran Tahir for a six over midwicket before stepping out to smash Elgar into the stands in the next over. He had earlier lifted a Morne Morkel delivery for a six over third man.
He completed his century with a single off Tahir as the crowd leapt to their feet in applause. The declaration came immediately after.
Pacer Morkel was the standout performer among the Proteas bowlers with figures of 3/51. Abbott (1/47) and Tahir (1/74) also got a wicket each.
Set a victory target of 481 runs, the visitors suffered an early setback when Elgar edged Ashwin to Rahane at first slip.
His departure saw Amla stride to the middle and the Proteas skipper proceeded to try and wear out the Indian bowlers along with Bavuma with a gritty defensive display.
The duo blocked most of the deliveries that came their way with only the occasional boundaries from Bavuma breaking the monotony.
Amla was off to a very slow start, opening his account in his 46th ball by taking a couple after an inside edge off Jadeja. He is now fourth on the list of batsmen consuming most number of balls before opening their account.
England’s John Murray (80 deliveries) holds the record in this dubious category which came during a Test match in Adelaide in an Ashes series against Australia in 1962.
England pacer Stuart Broad (62 balls) and Grant Flower (51 balls) of Zimbabwe are also ahead of Amla in the list. Broad produced his feat in 2013 and Grant in the year 2000, New Zealand being the opponents on both occasions.
After Bavuma was sent back to the pavilion by a superb Ashwin delivery, de Villers and Amla continued to stall the Indian bowlers.
The partnership notched up a whopping 62 dot balls before Amla brought up the first runs with a boundary off Dhawan’s first ball of the day. De Villers defended for 32 balls before getting off the mark with a single off his 33rd.