Chennai, Mar.29 : South Africa took a 44-run lead over India on the fourth day of the first Test being played here, an indication that the match is almost certain to end in a draw.
At the crease were Neil McKenzie, who fashioned another stylish unbeaten half-century (59 not out) and Hashim Amla (35 not out) who carried on from where he had left off in the first innings. Their partnership is already worth 78 runs and by the time stumps were drawn, the Proteas were comfortably placed at 131 for one in reply to India's 627 all out.
Earlier in the day, fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Makaya Ntini claimed four and three wickets respectively, stopping a rampaging India in its tracks
Dale Steyn's lethal eight-over spell of 4 for 15 completely stunned India's lower order, putting into shade Rahul Dravid's 25th century and the fact that he became the sixth cricket player in the world to cross the 10,000 Test run mark.
Little went India's way at the Chepauk as the South Africans dominated the fourth day's play. Makhaya Ntini, who was given a pasting by Virender Sehwag on Friday, led the revival with a vastly improved spell and Dale Steyn's pace then proved far too much for the tail to handle as the Indian lead was restricted to just 87. Faced with a potentially tricky session of batting, South Africa responded with aplomb.
Skipper Graeme Smith set the benchmark, with a nonchalant clip off the pads off Sreesanth, and three fours in a wretched opening over from R P Singh. After eight overs of uninspired pace, Indian skipper Anil Kumble summoned off-spinner Harbhajan Singh at one end and Sourav Ganguly at the other, and Harbhajan struck with his ninth delivery. Bowled from round the wicket, it didn't turn much and evaded Smith's forward prod before thudding into his pad. Smith's 35 had taken just 30 balls, but gave the second innings of the South Africans the momentum it needed.
That was as good as it got for India.South Africa is once again in a position to dictate terms in the match.