Dale Steyn features among the greatest bowling performances in India vs South Test rivalry. Can he do something special in this series? © Getty Images (File Photo)
Dale Steyn features among the greatest bowling performances in India vs South Test rivalry. Can he do something special in this series? © Getty Images (File Photo)

As India takes on South Africa in yet another Test series. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the greatest bowling spells in the history of India-South Africa encounters.

As we know, Tests are not won unless a side gets 20 opposition wickets. That is not a sufficient condition, but it is almost always a necessary one. Over the years, the India-South Africa Tests have mostly been decided on Indian spin or South African seam, but there have been exceptions to the rule as well.

Let us look at the top bowling spells in the history of India-South Africa Tests.

1. Anil Kumble, 6 for 53 at New Wanderers, 1992-93

The first series between the two countries (which was also South Africa’s first home series in over two decades) had started off with a tame rain-affected draw at Kingsmead. The second Test at New Wanderers had started off with South Africa reeling at 26 for 4; with the score on 61 for 4, Steve Bucknor did not consult a third umpire while replays showed Jonty Rhodes was clearly run out.

Thus reprieved, Jonty Rhodes scored 91 and lifted his side to 292. On a side note, Javagal Srinath’s bouncer made its way through the grille of Meyrick Pringle’s helmet and hit him over the eye, ruling him out of the Test.

Sachin Tendulkar then played a lone hand for India, scoring 111 when nobody else crossed 25. India somehow managed to reach 227 after a gutsy show from the Little Master. South Africa ended Day Three on 75 for 1 with Andrew Hudson and the night-watchman, Dave Richardson batting serenely. They were ahead by 140, and were all set to score quick runs and set India a challenging target.

Anil Kumble was playing in his fourth Test. From his first 3, he had 9 wickets at 39. He was generally considered as the foil who would keep the runs under control while Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar, and Srinath would be the ones who would get the wickets. Nobody had expected the tall, bespectacled, academic-looking bowler to wreak havoc.

Things changed early on Day Four: Kumble’s quicker one sped like a bazooka and undid Hudson’s defence. After Kepler Wessels was run out by the substitute Chetan Sharma, Kumble kept on delivering one cannonball after another. He was unplayable on that day: he bowled straight and fast, and the batsmen, mostly trying to play for the turn, succumbed to him one after another.

Richardson, Rhodes, and Peter Kirsten were all bowled in due time. Brian McMillan was caught by Prabhakar, following which Hansie Cronje was bowled as well. He had picked up 6 wickets — 5 of them bowled — all off straight top-spinners or googlies. The South Africans had never seen spin bowling of this nature or pace.

South Africa finished with 252; set to score 318 India went into a negative frame of mind, and South Africa played to their tune. 82 overs of batting saw India finish on 141 for 4.

2. Allan Donald, 5 for 55 and 7 for 84 at St George’s Park, 1992-93

The Indians already had a taste of Allan Donald in South Africa’s return to international cricket at Eden Gardens. They had managed to survive Donald there — mostly because he was restricted to only 10 overs. Here, at St George’s Park, there was no such restriction.

Supporting Donald was the furiously fast Brett Schultz, the wily Brian McMillan, and the accurate Craig Matthews. McMillan provided the first breakthrough, following which Donald bowled two beautifully pitched out-swingers to remove WV Raman and Tendulkar. India were 59 for 3, and already in trouble.

There was a recovery of sorts with Mohammad Azharuddin counterattacking, but Donald struck twice again, having Pravin Amre caught at slip and then Azhar caught behind. All 4 wickets had gone to out-swingers. Towards the end of the Indian innings he produced an encore that took Kiran More’s edge and landed in Richardson’s gloves. India 212; Donald 5 for 55.

That was, however, not the end: India had curiously picked Venkatapathy Raju to partner Kumble, leaving out Srinath. From 117 for 1 Kumble and Raju brought the hosts down to 275, with Cronje playing a lone hand being last out for 135. The lead had been restricted to 63, a fightback was still possible, but then came the carnage.

Ravi Shastri managed to extract a single in Donald’s first over; Raman was cleaned up the very next ball. Sanjay Manjrekar, then acknowledged as India’s technically most equipped, went next, trapped leg-before; and once Shastri took a single the next over, Tendulkar was caught behind off Schultz the very first ball he faced.

Azhar attempted another counterattack that ended feebly as Donald picked him out as well, caught by Wessels himself; another bullet from Schultz found Amre’s edge; and finally, the diligent Shastri, after an essay that had lasted 68 balls and 96 minutes, was caught-behind off McMillan. He had scored 5. India were 31 for 6, still 32 runs away to make the hosts bat again.

What followed was a treat for the Gods. Kapil played what was definitely one of the greatest innings in the history of Indian cricket; Prabhakar, More, and Kumble scored 17 apiece, but all three, along with Kapil, eventually fell to Donald. He bowled a probing line and length, at a furious pace, and his late away movement plucked out the Indians one by one.

Thanks to Kapil’s 129 India had somehow reached 215. Donald finished with 7 for 84, giving him match figures of 12 for 129. Wessels got after the bowling and chased down the target with 9 wickets in hand. This still remains the best match haul in India-South Africa encounters.

3. Javagal Srinath, 6 for 21 at Motera, 1996-97

By the time South Africa made their first tour to India four years later, Srinath was the spearhead of the host attack. India were in trouble in the first match of the tour at Motera: despite VVS Laxman’s 51 on debut, India had been hit hard by the pace of Donald and the batting of all people — Fanie de Villiers.

The tourists needed only 170 to win the Test. Enter Srinath. The fifth ball of the first over was a typical Srinath in-swinger that hit Hudson on the pad; Darryl Cullinan edged the next ball to Nayan Mongia, and South Africa’s score read 0 for 2 after the over.

The spinners, Kumble and Sunil Joshi, pulled off a wicket apiece, but Cronje and McMillan fought hard to take the score to 95. Tendulkar turned to Srinath once again: he found Richardson’s edge immediately, and had 2 in 2 again as he trapped Rhodes leg-before (off a ball that, to be fair to Rhodes, was aimed for fine-leg).

An over from Kumble saw the end of Pat Symcox and de Villiers, and then Srinath came roaring at the tail: he hit Donald’s leg-stump and Adams’ off-stump off consecutive deliveries. It was the third time he had 2 in 2 in the innings, and finished with figures of 6 for 21. India won the Test by 64 runs.

4. Venkatesh Prasad, 6 for 104 at Eden Gardens, 1996-97

Prepared to fight back, South Africa did not give the Indian attack the slightest of chances as Hudson and Gary Kirsten both scored hundreds, adding 236 for the first wicket at Eden Gardens — still the highest opening partnership on the historic ground.

They batted till well after tea before Srinath bowled Kirsten, and towards the end of the day, Venkatesh Prasad ran through Hudson’s defence. At the end of the day, the tourists were on 339 for 2 with Cullinan and the debutant Herschelle Gibbs looking completely at ease.

The Indian shoulders might have dropped when they began next morning, but Prasad gave them hope by trapping Gibbs leg-before early. Srinath provided support at the other end by accounting for Cronje early, and in the next over, Prasad trapped McMillan leg-before.

The big blow came when Prasad had Cullinan leg-before as well. On a pitch that had nothing for seamers the previous day — especially for anyone of Prasad’s pace — South Africa suddenly looked clueless against some accurate bowling with gentle movement.

Lance Klusener, the other debutant, was clean bowled as well; after a defiant 42-run eighth wicket partnership with Richardson. Symcox was cleaned up by Prasad. Kumble duly cleaned up the tail, and the visitors were bowled out for 428 on a placid surface: they were 346 for 2 at one time.

Prasad had bowled unchanged throughout the second morning, returning figures of 6 for 104. The figures may not reflect how well Prasad had bowled; it was, however, the tale of triumph for a workhorse who had triggered a collapse through sheer persistence. Unfortunately, it would all go in vain.

5. Lance Klusener, 8 for 64 at Eden Gardens, 1996-97

India ran into trouble once Prasad was through with his spell. They opened with the rather unusual pair of Nayan Mongia and Rahul Dravid, who added 68; however, a collapse had India reeling at 161 for 7; Eden Gardens was, however, hopeful when they saw their favourite son Azhar walk out to the centre to join Kumble.

In a spell of batting Eden Gardens has seldom seen before or after, Azhar reached his hundred in 74 balls — still the joint-fastest by an Indian. He was particularly harsh on poor Klusener, who went for 75 runs in his 14 overs on debut. In the 61st over of the innings, Azhar hit Klusener for 5 boundaries in the last 5 balls of the over (Kumble hit the first 2 balls of the next over from Donald for fours as well).

Azhar scored 109 and Kumble 88, but India still conceded a 99-run lead. Kirsten scored his second hundred of the Test, Cullinan scored a hundred as well, and Cronje set India a target of 467 in a shade over four sessions. Things seemed a bit tight for the tourists as Donald was off the field with a bruised heel, but Klusener was desperate to prove a point.

He started with the wicket of Mongia, caught low in the slip by Cullinan; 4 balls later he had Sourav Ganguly caught behind for a duck; while Tendulkar batted painfully before falling to a bat-pad catch off Symcox for a 25-ball 2, Laxman was cleaned up by a scorching Klusener yorker for one. India were 29 for 4 on the fourth afternoon itself.

Dravid and Azhar fought manfully the next morning before McMillan ended Dravid’s 127-ball vigil. Joshi, batting at No. 7 (definitely one or two places higher than where he should have) edged one off Klusener. The revenge came when his delivery kissed Azhar’s edge and went to McMillan in the slip.

Kumble and Srinath then had a partnership of sorts, but it was only a matter of time: India were bowled out for 137 and Klusener finished with 8 for 64 — still the best bowling figures for anyone in an India-South Africa encounter. India lost by 329 runs.

6. Allan Donald, 5 for 40 and 4 for 14 at Kingsmead, 1996-97

By the time the Indians had reached South Africa for the return tour later that season, the hosts were ready to avenge their 1-2 defeat. A fit Donald and a roaring Shaun Pollock were ready to be unleashed at them, with McMillan and Klusener to provide them with relief (if required).

Under seaming conditions on a green pitch, Prasad came to the party again: with some assistance from Srinath, David Johnson, and Ganguly, he returned figures of 5 for 60 as the tourists were bowled out for 225 on the first evening. It seemed to be a commendable job.

In over a session, India were blown out for 100. Raman, included possibly for his experience in the country, lasted 3 balls before Pollock ran through his defence. Poor Vikram Rathour was not used to pace and movement of this kind at all, and was beaten convincingly. He struggled for 42 balls before being caught by Hudson off Donald in the slips.

Tendulkar hit Donald for a sliced square-driven boundary, but ‘White Lightning’ struck back the very next delivery: the ball swung in at great pace, made its way through Tendulkar’s defence, and took the off-stump. The fight went out of the Indians with that wicket.

Azhar struggled, and a couple of desperate hits got him ten runs. McMillan broke through twice before Donald came back to have Mongia caught-behind. The tail crumbled in front of his pace, and India barely managed to reach three figures before they were bowled out. Donald finished with 5 for 40; the scorecard tells that two of these were those of tail-enders, but in reality he was the man causing discomfort to the batsmen as wickets kept falling at the other end.

Prasad once again responded with a five-for (his 10 for 153 remains the best match haul by an Indian against South Africa), but when South Africa were bowled out before lunch on Day Three they had already achieved a lead of 394; a victory was out of the question, but could India even better their first innings total?

It took Donald 3 balls to show what the Indians were up against: Rathour drove the first ball of the innings past cover-point for two; the next ball squared him up completely. Rathour, devoid of any footwork, could only edge it to Richardson. The next ball — a fast yorker — turned out to be too quick for Ganguly.

Raman hung around for 8 balls before another Donald yorker hit the base of the stumps. There was no excuse for the pitch being green and bouncy: Donald was simply beating the Indians by pace. Cronje’s decision to give Donald some rest robbed him of a ten-for as India could never recover from 7 for 3.

They were bowled out for 66 when Donald had Prasad caught by Hudson at third slip. Had Dravid not scored 27 not out, their lowest total of 42 might have been in jeopardy. Donald finished with 4 for 14 and a match haul of 9 for 54.

7. Shaun Pollock, 4 for 24 at Wankhede, 1999-2000

It was a series marred by controversies. The quality of cricket put up by India was certainly not the highest: they had received a huge setback in Australia, and the rift between Tendulkar and Azhar had brought the morale down to an all-time low. In the end they took field sans Azhar, and it took a 97 from Tendulkar and a 42-ball 41 not out from Ajit Agarkar — whose batting in Australia had been an object of ridicule — took India to 225.

An excellent spell from Tendulkar, supported by Srinath and the spinners, saw the tourists being bowled out for 176 after the opening partnership had added 90. Donald struck immediately by having Laxman caught behind, while Pollock bowled a peach to have the debutant Wasim Jaffer caught at slips; and Cronje, the arch nemesis of Tendulkar, trapped the great batsman leg-before after he had got off to a fine start.

India were 24 for 3, but Dravid and Ganguly put their heads down to add 49 in 77 balls. Pollock came back and had Ganguly caught almost immediately at slips. Dravid crawled on painfully and was barracked mercilessly by the crowd; his woes ended when Pollock clean bowled him. ‘The Wall’ had scored 37 in 127 balls.

India were 92 for 9 when Mongia, batting at No. 11, scored a 10-ball 19; however, Pollock put that partnership to an end as well when he had Murali Kartik, the other debutant, caught behind. The Indians were bowled out for 113 after being 73 for 3. Pollock finished with 4 for 24 — setting the foundation for what would be the only overseas series victory in the entire history of contests between the two nations; South Africa won by 4 wickets.

8. Harbhajan Singh, 7 for 87 at Eden Gardens, 2004-05

The two-Test contest between the sides in India in 2004-05 is perhaps the least remembered of all series between the two nations. After a high-scoring draw at Green Park, the Indian seamers provided with jolts at Eden Gardens, but a resilient 121 from Kallis saw the tourists to 305. Virender Sehwag and Dravid then responded with eighties, most Indian batsmen got among runs, and India managed a 106-run lead at lunch on Day Four.

South Africa seemed to be on track when Graeme Smith and Andrew Hall added 77 for the opening stand in 23 overs. Then Harbhajan Singh struck, having Hall caught-behind; in his next over he trapped Jacques Rudolph leg-before, and suddenly the tourists were 81 for 2.

Smith and Kallis hung on, but Ganguly persisted with Kumble and Harbhajan. It paid off when Smith was out caught close by Laxman off the latter; Hashim Amla went the same way, and soon afterwards Kumble got rid of Boeta Dippenaar. South Africa finished the day with 172 for 5, only 66 ahead, but they still had Kallis with Zander de Bruyn for company.

The vital blow came early on Day Five when Kallis hit one back to Harbhajan. Pollock was caught soon, and two balls later Harbhajan found Justin Ontong’s edge. Kumble then cleaned up the tail; South Africa were bowled out for 222, and Harbhajan finished with figures of 7 for 87 — still the best figures by an Indian against South Africa. India clinched the series with an 8-wicket victory.

9. S Sreesanth, 5 for 40 at New Wanderers, 2006-07

Nobody gave India a chance on their tour to South Africa in 2006-07. They had been beaten black and blue in the ODIs, failing to win a single one. The five-pronged pace attack was always going to have India in disarray the way they had a decade back.

Things seemed to be on track at 14 for 2, but the trio of Dravid, Tendulkar, and Laxman batted out of their skins to put up some resistance. The real performance, however, came from Ganguly, who was making his comeback to Test cricket: he top-scored with 51, and an unexpected help came from VRV Singh, who plundered 29 in 19 balls. India were bowled out for 249.

They had started the day on 156 for 5; they finished on 146 for 5. In the 131-minute gap between the two Indian innings, the mighty South African batting line-up was shaken, stirred, and decimated by the Indian seamers.

The first blow came from S Sreesanth; the ball pitched just short of a length and held its line; Smith was trapped leg-before. Sehwag then pulled off a blinder to dismiss Gibbs off Zaheer Khan, and Sreesanth bowled a beautiful out-swinger that took Amla’s edge and landed in Laxman’s hands at slip.

South Africa were suddenly 5 for 3. Sreesanth had been bowling with an enviously upright seam, finding the edge more often than not. Soon after lunch he had the big wicket when Kallis fell to a spectacular catch by Laxman. Zaheer bowled an unplayable snorter that de Villiers could only balloon up towards point.

The misery did not end there: Boucher went for an expansive drive, only to find that the ball had swung in; shortly afterwards Pollock was done in by the extra pace as he was trapped leg-before. South Africa were 45 for 7 at this stage — and, despite scoring only 249 — India were suddenly contemplating the option of enforcing a follow-on.

Sreesanth’s figures read 8.1-3-19-5 at this stage; Andre Nel and Ashwell Prince scored a few runs off him before Kumble and VRV finished things off. South Africa were bowled out for 84 — their lowest total against India. Sreesanth finished with 5 for 40.

Laxman’s 73 helped India set a target of 402; South Africa lost the Test — their first at home against India — by 123 runs as Zaheer, Sreesanth, and Kumble picked up 3 wickets apiece in the second innings.

10. Dale Steyn, 5 for 23 at Motera, 2007-08

One can only contemplate what would have happened if Kumble had decided to bowl that day at Motera. As things turned out, he had decided otherwise, and India ran into Dale Steyn that morning. With some support from Makhaya Ntini and Morne Morkel, Steyn bowled out the hosts before lunch.

Ntini started it all when he had Jaffer caught at slip by Smith. Steyn then pitched one just outside the line and brought it in; the ball took Sehwag’s inside edge and hit the stumps. Two indecisions from Laxman (a leave) and Ganguly (a half-hearted plod) gave Ntini 2 more wickets.

The ball to Dravid was straight and fast; Dravid went for a straight-drive, but Steyn’s fast late movement beat his edge and hit off. Soon afterwards Morkel accounted for MS Dhoni, and India were 55 for 6. Steyn then pitched one on the middle-stump that straightened — and Harbhajan was left clueless.

Poor RP Singh got a delivery that would have got any top-order batsman: it pitched on middle-stump, and took off at an absurd pace; RP could only poke at it feebly as it spooned to Smith in the slips. A fast delivery then hit Sreesanth’s off-stump, and India were bowled out for 76 in 20 overs. Steyn finished with 8-2-23-5, and the tourists batted before lunch on Day One.

Had Steyn been a bit more fortunate with the edges he might have ended things earlier. Instead, he had kept on beating the outside edge while Ntini and Morkel had managed 5 between them. Even then, he had set up the Test for South Africa in the first session of the Test. Kallis scored a hundred, de Villiers a double-hundred, and South Africa won comfortably by an innings.

11. Dale Steyn, 7 for 51 at Jamtha, 2009-10

Zaheer provided India with a couple of early blows, but an unbeaten 253 from Amla and a 173 from Kallis enabled Smith to declare at 558 for 6. India lost 3 wickets for 56, but S Badrinath fought it out on debut, playing an excellent support role to Sehwag, who was having his usual blast.

India did not have the best of starts. Laxman had been ruled out of the Test (which was why Badrinath had been included in the first place); Rohit Sharma, too, was all set to make his debut when he injured himself on the morning of the Test. Without any back-up option, Wriddhiman Saha, the back-up wicketkeeper, had to make his debut as well.

Steyn had claimed 2 of the first 3 wickets: he had bowled two balls that left Murali Vijay, and brought the third one in at an outrageous pace; Vijay left the ball, only to realise that the ball had hit his off-stump. Soon afterwards he bowled one on the middle-stump and moved it away; Tendulkar was sucked into a drive and was caught behind.

Now, after Wayne Parnell had ended Sehwag’s innings (he had scored 109 in 139 balls with 15 fours out of a team score of 192) Steyn exploded. Badrinath attempted an on-drive but played it to Prince at short mid-wicket. Three balls later, poor Saha was left completely clueless — just like Vijay — and left one that hit his off-stump.

Zaheer’s missed slog hit the stumps; Amit Mishra couldn’t handle the pace of a vicious off-cutter; and Harbhajan was no match for an in-dipper. Steyn finished with 7 for 51 (it still remains his career-best haul); his second spell read 3.4-2-3-5; from 192 for 3, India were bowled out for 233.

Steyn picked up 3 more wickets in the second innings to give his side an innings win: India crumbled to 319; though Tendulkar scored a fighting hundred, nobody else crossed 40.

12. Harbhajan Singh, 3 for 64 and 5 for 59 at Kolkata, 2009-10

A vengeful India took on the tourists in the next match at Eden Gardens. Once again Zaheer dismissed his ‘bunny’ Smith early, but Alviro Petersen (on debut) and Amla added 209 for the second wicket. Both batsmen scored hundreds, and at 218 for 1 it seemed to be South Africa’s Test all over again.

Then came the breakthroughs. Both batsmen fell to Zaheer in quick succession before Harbhajan bowled a top-spinner on Kallis’ off-stump; the ball took his top-edge, and the ball lobbed to fine-leg; Laxman ran from first slip to take a tumbling catch. In his next over, he trapped Prince and JP Duminy leg-before in consecutive balls, turning the match on its head.

South Africa became 261 for 9, but a crucial 35-run last wicket stand between Parnell and Morkel saw them to 296. They had lost their last 9 wickets for 78 runs.

India responded in a no-nonsense manner, with Sehwag and Tendulkar adding 249 for the third wicket and Laxman and Dhoni adding an unbeaten 259 for the seventh. All four batsmen scored hundreds as Dhoni declared on 643 for 6, 347 runs ahead. India had to win the Test to retain their No. 1 spot in Tests.

The pitch was still playing fine, and India still had to contend with the dangerous Amla, who had scored 367 runs in the series till then, having been dismissed only once. Smith and Petersen added 36 before Mishra trapped the former leg-before; soon afterwards Harbhajan tossed one up that took Peterson’s inside edge, hit the pad, and flew over Badrinath’s head to his right; he caught it on second attempt.

Prince was sucked into a drive, got caught in two minds, and the ball looped to Ishant Sharma at mid-off; then Harbhajan tossed one up, Duminy played for the turn that wasn’t, and was struck plumb in front; he then shifted to round the wicket, Steyn missed the off-break, and was leg-before.

Parnell provided Amla with the support he needed, hanging on for 64 balls before Ishant struck twice in quick succession: however, Paul Harris had also played out 24 balls; with over 22 overs to go, Morkel walked out to join Amla. Zaheer was probably the man for the occasion, but an injured knee had kept him out of the last day.

There was a lot of drama, Dhoni dropped a catch, Sehwag kicked a ball intentionally to the fence (only for the umpires to award the tourists with a five), and with 2 overs to spare, Harbhajan started for what would be his final effort. Eden erupted as he trapped Morkel in front with his third ball as India won by an innings.

A crestfallen Amla walked back unvanquished on 123 with a series average of 490. Harbhajan had returned figures of 48.3-23-59-5 and match figures of 8 for 123. India retained their number one spot.

13. Dale Steyn, 5 for 75 at Newlands, 2010-11

Modern-day cricket got the taste of an unstoppable force hitting an immovable wall on January 4, 2011. Over years it has been contests like these that have made cricket the sport it is today. Had it been a lesser batsman or a lesser bowler, the contest would have been won by someone. In the end it turned out to be one of the hardest-fought stalemates.

The series was tied 1-1. With that man Kallis scoring 161 and taking South Africa to 362 things looked a bit dodgy for India when they lost Sehwag (Smith dived forward and caught him off Steyn) and Dravid with 28 runs on the board. Tendulkar joined Gautam Gambhir, and the two of them saw the hosts to stumps on Day Two at 142 for 2.

The pair took the score to 204 before Harris removed Gambhir for 93. Laxman was run out just before the new ball (Tendulkar was dropped by Harris, who then threw the ball to run Laxman out) was claimed, and India were 235 for 4, still the better of the two sides.

The new ball was claimed, and Steyn bowled one of the greatest spells of recent times. Tendulkar was beaten, and young Cheteshwar Pujara was sized up. Then Steyn pitched one on the leg-stump that moved almost like a leg-break at a screaming pace; the ball struck Pujara on the back-foot in front of middle-stump.

Steyn had the measure of Dhoni as well shortly afterwards; the Indian captain played away from the body, poked at one, and the ball flew to Prince in the slips. It was unreal bowling. It seemed as if someone was controlling Steyn in EA Sports Cricket or Brian Lara Cricket or something similar: he pitched the ball exactly where he wanted to, made it bounce the exact amount he wanted to, and moved it away exactly as much he wanted to.

He bowled 66 balls on either side of lunch, picking up 2 for 13 (and hit Harbhajan’s stumps without the bails being dislodged) — but that was because Tendulkar shielded his partners from Steyn, taking 48 balls himself. It was a contest that would be remembered for ages.

Finally Harbhajan fell, trying to pull a ball that was too fast for him, holing out to the substitute Duminy at deep square-leg: the pair had added 76. His five-for came with a scorching bouncer that Ishant could only lob to Boucher, and India managed only a 2-run lead. Tendulkar had scored 146.

Steyn finished with 5 for 75. Had it been another day, it might have been 8 for 25.

14. Harbhajan Singh, 7 for 120 at Newlands, 2010-11

Smith and Peterson began the third innings confidently after conceding that 2-run lead, adding 50 for the first wicket in 82 balls. Then Smith played back to Harbhajan, the ball struck him just on the knee-roll, and Simon Taufel ruled him out. Sent in as night-watchman Harris shouldered arms to one that spun in sharply to fall for a 2-ball duck.

Day Four began with Petersen missing the line and trapped plumb in front. Amla trying an ugly sweep against Harbhajan; the ball ballooned up and strolled on to hit the stumps. South Africa had suddenly lost 4 wickets for 14 runs and Harbhajan’s spell read 3.2-0-8-4. With Zaheer and Ishant also striking, India had the hosts reeling at 130 for 6.

It was then that the experience of Kallis and Boucher came handy. The pair hung on grimly to add 103 in 195 balls before Tendulkar removed the latter. Steyn and Morkel came to the party as well; though Harbhajan ran through the tail and finished with 7 for 120 South Africa, with 341, had done enough. Kallis scored his second hundred of the Test and remained unbeaten on 109.

India would probably have made an attempt to go for the chase, but Gambhir’s injury and Sehwag’s early dismissal meant that they never wanted it. Smith went on the defensive as well, and India played out time, finishing on 166 for 3.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)