India bowled South Africa within the first session in their first innings on Day 2, but facing the prospect of losing the series, Hashim Amla and Faf Du Plessis stuck to their guns pretty well on Day 3 to prolong this third Test match in Nagpur a little further, before a couple of big strikes from Amit Mishra swung the match in the home team's favour, with India going on to clinch this Freedom Test series.
South Africa, needing an improbable 310 for victory, brought out those defensive batting guns into play as Amla and Faf Du Plessis stood up to India's spin challenge quite impressively.
The two batsmen put on an unbeaten 47 runs in 21.2 overs to take South Africa to Lunch on 105 for 4 in 45 overs, before adding another 25 runs, but by playing loads and loads more overs â€“ the total alliance was worth 72 in 280 balls.
Amla and Du Plessis together until the 70th over, and just when Kohli was running out of ideas, Mishra struck twice in two overs, leaving South Africa on 151/6 in 76 overs at Tea, needing another 159 runs, after a session that yielded just 46 runs in 31 overs â€“ at one point it was 25 runs from 25 overs, before JP Duminy got a few quick runs.
The final session was always only going to go one way, and once Duminy fell to a straight one from Ashwin -- who was outstanding with 12 wickets in the match, seven of them coming for 66 runs in the second innings -- off the new ball, it was comfortable as South Africa were bowled out for 185 in 89.5 overs.
India won the Test match by 124 runs, and with it handing South Africa a first away series defeat in nine years. The final Test match in Delhi is now academic with India winning the series 2-0, the first one for Virat Kohli at home as captain.
In the morning, before Amla and Du Plessis showed what patience in Test match cricket is all about, R Ashwin dismissed the danger man AB De Villiers as well as Dean Elgar.
De Villiers, with cheers of "ABD, ABD" following him again, came to bat in the final ball of the fourth over of the day, after Ashwin had picked up the wicket of Elgar (18, 58b, 1x4, 1x6). The umpire gave Elgar out lbw, after he was hit in line of the stumps, even if replays showed there was in inside-edge. It mattered little, though, as the ball did loop up off the pad and fall into short-leg's hands.
Aggression has been the buzzword for De Villiers, and the right-hander looked to take it to the Indian spinners, jumping down the track often enough and searching for those boundaries.
However, his stay at the crease would not last long, as a carom ball from Ashwin proved to be his undoing. De Villiers (9, 21b, 1x4) played for the turn in, but the ball gripped on the surface and just held its line, before striking the batsman smack-bang plumb in front of the wicket â€“ Ashwin was already celebrating even before making the appeal.
If India thought they would run through the batting lineup from there, Amla and Du Plessis had other ideas, as the two dropped anchor wonderfully-well. After forcing Virat Kohli to make a few bowling changes, the two batsmen played Amit Mishra, bowling way too slowly to be effective-enough, and Ishant Sharma quite comfortably.
Amla and Du Plessis continued to drop anchor in the second session, with the run rate around a run an over. They were not too bothered by it, though, with both batsmen happy to defend, and how well they did that.
It was just as-attritional-as-they-come Test match cricket, but equally fascinating. The bowling was relentless, but the batting was equally thou-shall-not-pass, and it had to be a magic a ball that would dismiss one of Amla and Du Plessis.
Amit Mishra was the man to produce that ball, an absolute ripper, which was well-flighted and pitched in the right area. Amla (39, 167b, 2x4) moved forward to defend, with his whole body well down on the ball, like it was throughout his innings, but the ball bounced after pitching, took the top of his bat and looped up to Virat Kohli at silly point.
How often do you see when a big partnership is broken, the other batsman falling quickly as well, and that was the case again, as Mishra castled Du Plessis (39, 152b, 3x4, 1x6) in his next over to wrest the match back in India's favour, for good.