Sachin Tendulkar and M S Dhoni looked good to play out the last session of play on Day 4. Resuming batting on 394/6, they took India past 400 and pressed on. The batsmen were negotiating the spin of Paul Harris and the pace of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel admirably. In the 115th over, Tendulkar took a single off Steyn to notch up his 50th century in Tests. The record was set, but the match was still not over.
Just two overs later, Steyn struck to produce a ball that bounced and picked up Dhoni's edge through to the keeper. The Indian captain was on his way for 90 after sharing in a 172-run partnership with Sachin. India were looking precarious again at 449/7.
The new batsman Harbhajan Singh disappointed when he edged a Paul Harris ball straight to slip for 1. With India at 450/8, Sreesanth came to the wicket and had a tough time dealing with Steyn's bouncers. But strong wind and bad light intervened, compelling the umpires to call off play for the day. The players went off with India's score at 454/8 and the deficit at 30.
On the morning of Day 4, the visiting side had to make up the deficit of 294 straight up. Nightwatchman Ishant Sharma, batting on 7 and Rahul Dravid an overnight score of 28, got off to a confident enough start. Sharma even hit the first four of the day courtesy a cover-drive off paceman Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
That shot took India past 200. But Sharma didn't have the nerve to last much longer. Steyn had him caught by Hashim Amla at square leg. The nightwatchman was sacked for 23 and India were at 214/3 in 54.4 overs as Sachin Tendulkar trudged out to the wicket. Rahul Dravid looked set to play the long innings, but caved into the bowling of Morkel in the 65th over when the batsman was caught behind for 43.
India were in trouble at 242/4 when VVS Laxman came out to bat. He took India past 250 with two blistering boundaries - one, between mid-off and extra cover and one, backward of square leg. But that was apparently all he had to contribute as paceman Lonwabo Tsotsobe accounted for his wicket in the 73rd over when he had him caught by Ashwell Prince in the slips.
At 255/5, India needed a decent partnership as an out-of-form Suresh Raina walked to the crease. As expected, Raina's poor form continued to dog him as he was caught at slip off Jacques Kallis for 5, leaving India in shambles at 277/6 in 77.5 overs. Hopes of an Indian recovery were steadily fading as the visitors went in for lunch.
With the score at 279/6 after lunch, Tendulkar and Dhoni tried to shed the pressure by pushing for runs. In the second over after the break, Dhoni struck paceman Lonwabo Tsotsobe for two fours. The batting duo then attacked Morkel, striking him for three boundaries in an over to take India well over 300. In the 87th over, Tendulkar and Dhoni got after Steyn, helping themselves to a four each. In the next over, Dhoni unleased his wrath on Kallis, picking him for three consecutive boundaries - one through mid off, one between extra cover and mid off and the third, left of fine leg. Dhoni soon moved to his fifty off just 41 balls when he ran a single off Morkel.
In the 92nd over, Tendulkar was lucky to survive an lbw shout to a Paul Harris ball that hit him adjacent to the stumps. But after overcoming the jitters, Tendulkar pressed on confidently as he and Dhoni notched up a 100-run stand in the 102nd over, taking India's score to 377/6 and reducing the deficit to 107 at tea.