New Delhi: Ajinkya Rahane on Sunday achieved the rare distinction of scoring a century in each innings as India needed another eight wickets on the last day of the fourth and final Test against a fighting South Africa to record a historic 3-0 series win here.
After being set a daunting target of 481 for a win, South Africa batted with extreme caution to crawl to a painstaking 72 for 2 in 72 overs at close of an eventful day at the Ferozeshah Kotla.
In their bid to bat out for a draw, South African skipper Hashim Amla (23 batting, 207 balls) decided to defend anything and everything that came his way with his ultra-defensive approach.
Courtesy Rahane's unbeaten 100 off 206 balls, his second of the match, the hosts declared their second innings at 267 for five as skipper Virat Kohli signalled the end of the innings when the batsman completed his hundred. This was the sixth Test century of Rahane's career.
Rahane also joined the elite list of Indian cricketers, who have reached three-figure mark in both innings of a Test match.
Late Vijay Hazare (once), Sunil Gavaskar (thrice), Rahul Dravid (twice) and Virat Kohli (once) are the other Indian batsmen to have achieved the coveted milestone.
India is the only team that can win this Test match but with the pitch getting slower and the turn on offer not being vicious, it will be some sort of challenge for Ravindra Jadeja (0/10 in 23 overs) and Ravichandran Ashwin (2/29 from 23 overs) to get the remaining eight wickets tomorrow.
The normally prolific AB de Villiers (11 batting ) also put his head down producing a dead bat to the spin twins as they found it difficult to breach the defences of visiting team's two most seasoned campaigners.
Such was the frustration for skipper Kohli that he introduced his opening duo of Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay into the attack trying to do something 'Out of the Box'.
De Villiers scored 11 off 91 balls and the first runs of the Amla-AB partnership came off 63 balls. At stumps, they had added 23 runs in 29.2 overs. The final session yielded 32 runs in 33 overs as the Proteas batsmen defended dourly.
Amla took 46 balls to open and scored only six runs in his first 100 balls. If Amla and Co. manage to save the Test, it will certainly be regarded as one of the great match-saving knocks in the history of the game.
Amla's 46 balls to get off the mark is the fourth highest deliveries consumed after John Murray of England (80 balls vs Australia, 1962) Stuart Broad (62 balls vs NZ in 2013) and Grant Flower (51 balls vs NZ in 2000).
Indian fielders watch as South Africa's captain Hashim Amla bats on day four of the fourth and final Test. (AP)
Opener Temba Bavuma (34, 117 balls) also showed resilience facing 104 balls which included three streaky boundaries and a six off Ravichandran Ashwin.
This is the first time that two South African batsmen in this series have played 100 balls each in a single innings. This was after opener Dean Elgar (4) was removed by Ashwin, who was introduced in the fourth over. The Proteas still need 476 runs for an improbable win.
Earlier, following his classy 127, Rahane once again produced a top quality innings that contained eight boundaries and three sixes, facing 206 balls.
Rahane batted like a man possessed as he changed gears from a cautious to an attacking approach with effortless ease. Kyle Abbott was cut to the boundary while he used the pace of a short delivery from Morne Morkel to guide it over third-man fence for six.
Once he reached 80, Rahane slog-swept a half volley from Imran Tahir over deep mid-wicket for his second six. In the very next over, Dane Piedt met with the same fate as Rahane danced down the track to hit another six.
While he played 152 balls for his 52 yesterday, he took another 54 balls in the morning session to complete his remaining 48 runs.
Wriddhiman Saha (23 not out) added 56 runs in only 14.1 overs with Rahane.
Skipper Kohli (88) must be a disappointed man as he missed out on a well-deserved 12th Test hundred, managing to add only five runs to his overnight score of 83.
It was a delivery from Abbott that was angled in and it kept low after pitching, hitting Kohli in the leg-middle line. Umpire Bruce Oxenford ruled it in favour of the bowler after some deliberations.
In all, Kohli faced 165 balls hitting 10 boundaries as Rahane continued without much fuss.
The Rahane-Kohli duo added 154 runs for the fifth wicket, which is by far the highest partnership for any wicket among the either teams in the series.
India 1st innings: 334 (Ajinkya Rahane 127, Ravichandran Ashwin 56; Kyle Abbott 5/40, Dane Piedt 4/117)
South Africa 1st innings: 121 (AB de Villiers 42, Ravindra Jadeja 5/30)
India 2nd innings: 267 for 5 declared in 100.1 overs (Virat Kohli 88, Ajinkya Rahane 100 not out; Morne Morkel 3/51).
South Africa 2nd innings: 72 for 2 in 72 overs (Temba Bavuma 34 off 117 balls, Hashim Amla 23 off 207 balls, AB de Villiers 11 off 91 balls; Ravichandran Ashwin 2/29)