KOLKATA, February 18 – India defied an unbeaten century from Hashim Amla to crush South Africa by an innings and 57 runs in the final Test on Thursday to draw the series 1-1.Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh claimed 5-59 as the tourists, trailing by 347 runs on the first innings, were bowled out for 290 in their second knock with just nine deliveries remaining in the match.
Amla returned unbeaten on 123 to finish the series with an astonishing average of 490 after making 253 not out in the first Test and 114 in the opening innings of this match.
The 26-year-old from Durban battled for 394 deliveries and struck 16 boundaries in his ninth Test century, but failed to avert a second-test drubbing for South Africa.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Indians, who lost the first Test in Nagpur by an innings and six runs, retained their number one Test ranking with 124 rating points.
Second-ranked South Africa, who would have taken over from India if the match had ended in a draw, were left on 120 points.
Last man Morne Morkel (12) kept Amla company for 20.4 overs before being leg-before to Harbhajan in the penultimate over of the match in front of 40,000 relieved fans at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
As Amla waged a lone battle, India sorely missed pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who was confined to the dressing room the entire day with a knee injury.
"It was a great win considering we had just three bowlers left to do the job," said Dhoni. "Harbhajan and the others bowled so well that we desperately wanted to be on the winning side.
"It was important for us to bat just once in the match and four of us got hundreds. Then we left it to the bowlers and they responded superbly."
South African captain Graeme Smith, who will miss the one-day series starting on Sunday due to a fractured finger, complimented the Indians.
"It would have been terrific if we had hung around, but credit must be given to MS (Dhoni) and his boys," said Smith. "The pitch was still good, but batting on the last day in India was always going to be difficult.
"Amla has been outstanding through the series. He has become our glue at number three. I don’t think any of us have seen him play better. He has a calm mind and has been working very hard.
"We may have lost this game, but I can’t complain. We have drawn the series and not every team which comes to India can say that. Hopefully, the next time we come out here, we can go one step forward."
Amla, who was declared the man of the match and the series, was understandably disappointed.
"I am tired, but also very disappointed that we lost. It was a very good wicket. We could have saved it because there wasn’t anything unplayable in the wicket.
"I am just grateful that I had a good series. I now look forward to the one-dayers.
Amla replaced the injured Smith for the three one-dayers, while veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis was named the captain.
The one-dayers will be played in Jaipur (Feb 21), Gwalior (Feb 24) and Ahmedabad (Feb 27).