Cape Town - South Africa's bowlers were restricted to one wicket before lunch as India's batsmen adopted a cautious approach on the fifth day of the third and final Test at Newlands on Thursday.
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Set an improbable 340 to win, India were 53 for one at the interval.
Virender Sehwag completed a disappointing series when he was caught at first slip by South African captain Graeme Smith off Morne Morkel for 11. Sehwag scored 144 runs in the series at an average of 24.
Gautam Gambhir, who will miss the forthcoming one-day series because of an injured left elbow, followed up his first innings 93 with an unbeaten 32.
Gambhir looked in distress when he was struck by Morkel just below the injured elbow in the second over of the innings. He received treatment on the field before carrying on batting with no further obvious signs of discomfort.
With the series level at one-all, India's only realistic chance of winning a series in South Africa for the first time rested with Sehwag playing a typically aggressive innings.
But he hit only two boundaries in a 40-ball innings before edging a full length delivery from Morkel to Smith off the last ball of the 12th over.
South Africa's celebrations were put on hold while umpire Ian Gould checked whether Morkel's delivery was a no-ball. Replays showed that a tiny portion of his heel was behind the line and Sehwag had to go.
South Africa, first innings, 362
India, first innings, 364
South Africa, second innings, 341
India, second innings (target 340)
G. Gambhir not out 32
V. Sehwag c Smith b Morkel 11
R. Dravid not out 8
Extras (b1, nb1) 2
Total (1 wkt, 28 overs) 53
Fall of wicket: 1-27 (Sehwag)
Bowling: Steyn 7-2-16-0, Morkel 7-2-13-1 (nb1), Tsotsobe 6-2-13-0, Harris 7-4-9-0, Smith 1-0-1-0
To bat: S. Tendulkar, V. Laxman, C. Pujara, M.Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Z. Khan, I. Sharma, S. Sreesanth
Match position: India need 287 to win with nine wickets remaining in the second innings
Umpires: Ian Gould (ENG), Simon Taufel (AUS)
TV umpire: Brian Jerling (RSA)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)
South Africa - Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen,
Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, Mark
Boucher (wk), Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Dale Steyn, Paul Harris, Morne Morkel.
India - Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Vangipurappu Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.