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An encore at the Bullring after 11 years
Indian players celebrate after winning the third Test against South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday.

  Virat Kohli almost touched the sky when he leapt for joy. The victory here meant so much for an evolving Indian team and him.

It was a dead rubber game but the third Test was played with much intensity, passion and pride by both teams at the iconic Bullring that is the very heart of South African cricket.

Crucially, India retained its belief when opener Dean Elgar, who remained unbeaten on a heroic 86, and Hashim Amla kept South Africa in the hunt on a difficult pitch but one that certainly was not “dangerous for play” on day four.

The 119-run second wicket partnership between the left-right combination frustrated India and disrupted the line of the pacemen.

Then, India struck close to Tea and Mohammed Shami’s inspired burst — he finished with five for 28 — meant there were no comebacks for South Africa.

Chasing 241, South Africa collapsed from 124 for one to 177 all out, leaving India winner by 63 runs here on Saturday.

The host took the series 2-1 but the verdict could have so easily gone the other way had India seized its chances in the first two Tests.

There were scenes of celebration in the Indian camp when replays confirmed Lungi Ngidi had nicked Shami to Dinesh Karthik; he kept in the last session after Parthiv Patel suffered a suspected finger fracture.

And the fragrance of an Indian victory returned to the Wanderers after 11 years. It was in the end of 2006 that Rahul Dravid’s men achieved the country’s first Test win on South African soil here.

Shami was fast and full towards the end and the yorker from round the wicket that rocketed past Morne Morkel was as scorching as they come.

When he finds rhythm, Shami, running in with intent, can be lethal with his speed and swing. He breathed fire here.

It was only towards the end of the middle session that the effect of the heavy roller that South Africa had used to bind the pitch together in the morning started to wear off and the surface began to play up again.

The match was slipping away from India when Hardik Pandya sprung to his right at mid-wicket for a sharp catch after Amla (52) could not keep a flick off Ishant Sharma down.

With the breakthrough achieved things started to happen for India. Jasprit Bumrah, so hard to pick with his quick-arm action, got one to kick around the off-stump to find the influential A.B. de Villiers’ edge.

After Tea, Ishant brought one back into Faf du Plessis — the ball kept low too — from short of a good length to disturb the stumps.

And the left-handed Quinton de Kock, searching for form, played around one that held its line from Bumrah to be trapped in front.

Vernon Philander played on, attempting a pull, off Shami and India soon cleaned up the tail.

The pitch was under intense scrutiny once play started an hour late owing to rain and wet ground conditions.

Apart from the odd delivery taking off and hitting the batsmen on the gloves, the surface actually played better.

Although uneven bounce was a concern, there was less sideways movement with the grass on the pitch becoming less visible owing to the passage of play.

The left-handed Elgar, an old-fashioned opener, showed plenty of guts in the middle. Not blessed with loads of natural ability, he displayed fight.

Elgar has an elaborate back-lift with the bat seeming to come down from the fourth slip. However, his willow gets down to the straight path as it meets the ball. He is not attractive, but organised. He was strong square of the wicket and off his legs.

Once again Amla shuffled and moved across, blocking the off-side channel to the pacemen. Amla’s tactics forced the pacemen to alter line. When they bowled wider, he creamed them through point. And when they strayed on the leg-side, Amla whipped them.



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