Cape Town, Jan 6 (IANS) Gritty Gautam Gambhir paved the way for India to bat out the last day to draw the third Test against South Africa, levelling the hard-fought three-match series 1-1. India will remain as world's top Test team.
Realising that it would be a difficult task to chase 340 to win the series, more so after the early dismissal of Virender Sehwag, the Indians settled for a draw with Gambhir (64), Rahul Dravid (31) Sachin Tendulkar (14) and V.V.S Laxman (32) stonewalling the strong South African pace attack.
The dogged resistance by Indian batsmen defied Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, who bowled their hearts out at Newlands stadium which witnessed one of the stirring Test in recent years.
The world's top two teams sized up each other for five engrossing days, testing each other's skills and patience and finally deciding to shake hands 30 minutes before the stumps on final day with India on 166/3. This is the first time that India drew a series in South Africa.
India has proved that they are as good oversesas as they in their own backyards by fighting back from a Test down to level the series 1-1.
Before India left its shore, the series was billed as one which that would be a litmus test for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's boys as they became the number one Test team after a series of victories in the subcontinent and tightly held the top spot for a year.
The worst fears came true when Indian batting cracked under an overcast sky, and a green pitch at Centurion with Steyn and Morkel showing South Africa the way. The batting showed a remarkably recovery in the second innings to score 459 after being shot out for 136 in the first but the bowling came to life with Zaheer Khan returning to side in the second Test at Durban. From there on India played like the number one team and have only enhanced their reputation.
If there was one man who stood between India and victory in the third Test, it was Jacques Kallis, who battled a side strain to score centuries in both innings. For records Kallis scored 498 runs in the series.
Tendulkar played a major role, scoring two centuries, which include the milestone 50th ton at Durban that set up the Indian win.
And the batting maestro made sure that he do not return home disappointed as he has for four series from this foreign soil.
Tendulkar faced 91 balls and batted for 146 minutes Thursday.
India began cautiously in the morning session against some fiery bowling by Steyn and Morkel, who with 15 wickets in the series, is joint-second with Harbhajan Singh.
Morkel pinned down the openers with some quality bowling. Sehwag, who has been struggling for runs in the series, and Gambhir bought their time in the middle. Such was the consistency of Steyn and Morkel that the aggressive duo never got the room to play their strokes freely.
Sehwag and Gambhir were in fact lucky to survive with the swinging and bouncing deliveries missing the bat on numerous occasions. They shared 27 runs in 12 overs, before Sehwag was dismissed, caught by Graeme Smith at first slip off Morkel.
Dravid then occupied the crease for 112 balls and 149 minutes, and shared a 79-run stand with Gambhir. Lonwabo Tsotsobe got the wicket of Dravid, who was caught by Ashwell Prince at slip.
Gambhir, who played 184 balls and lasted 271 minutes, remained solid at the other end.
He was finally dismissed after tea when he edged behind the stumps off Steyn.
Steyn, who finished with 21 wickets in the series, bowled with guts thereafter but Tendulkar and Laxman countered him to see off the threat.