Proteas coast ahead to 298 for 4 at tea as Test drifts to draw

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Chennai, Mar 30 (UNI) South Africa were 298 for four in 92 overs at tea on the fifth and final day of the first Test against India at the M A Chidambaram stadium here today.

Neil McKenzie (139, 289 balls, 386 minutes) and A B Devilliers (9, 35 balls, 41 minutes) were at the crease. The Proteas were ahead by 209 runs with six wickets in hand with the Test drifting towards a draw.

The Proteas' intentions of settling for a draw were clear with their batsmen Neil McKenzie, who registered his fourth Test ton after the lunch break, and his partner Jacques Kallis batting on dourly without taking any chances after losing the overnight batsman Hashim Amla a few minutes before lunch.

That Indian captain Anil Kumble had thrown in the towel too was also evident from the fact that he brought on Laxman at the pavillion end, taking himself off in the 32nd over of the day's play, the 65th in South Africa's second innings.

However, although Amla missed the honour of registering two centuries in the match, McKenzie reached his fourth century in 45 test matches after batting for 217 minutes and facing 184 balls. He hit 11 fours.

Kallis fell in the second ball of the 77th over, holding out to R P Singh off Harbhajan Singh.

The Proteas had earlier posted the 250-run mark in their second knock off 69.4 overs when McKenzie was batting on 112 and Kalis on 12.

Kallis was dismissed for 19 with the help of one four. He was at the wicket for 69 minutes.

The Indians had another success as Harbhajan albeit late, struck to dismiss left hander Ashwell Prince who guided a turning ball into Wasim Jaffer's hands at close in position.

Prince made five with one boundary in his 12 minute stay at the wicket. He faced 11 balls. South Africa were 272 for 4 in 79 overs.

Harbhajan took two wickets in the space of 11 balls conceding seven runs. A B Devilliers joined McKenzie batting on undaunted at one end and the two carried on till tea.

As the dull contest was meandering to a definite draw, Kumle returned to the dressing room, reportedly with a mild groin strain.

But his absence on the field for a considerable time gave room to speculation that he may be out of action for the next Test. But that speculation was spiked.

Even Sachin Tendulkar was on and off the field. In their place, 12th man Irfan Pathan and Piyoosh Chawla took the field. Laxman and Sehwag were given charge of the bowling till tea.

UNI VV-SNR AB PM1550

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