South Africa have made a solid start to their run-chase in the second Test against India, reaching 34 without loss at tea on the third day as they go in search of 240 to win and level the three-match series.
Openers Aiden Markram (24*) and Dean Elgar (10*) have left well but been positive in trying to score as they faced seven overs before the mid-afternoon break on Wednesday.
South Africa left themselves with a testing target after they bowled India out for 266 in their second innings, on the stroke of 2pm.
India have Hanuma Vihari, who batted very well with the lower-order to finish with 40 not out, and bowling hero Shardul Thakur, who lashed a quickfire 28, to thank for building their lead into something substantial after they went into lunch 161 ahead but with just four wickets remaining.
Thakur hammered five fours and a six off just 24 deliveries before left-arm paceman Marco Jansen removed both him and Mohammed Shami (0) in successive overs. The 21-year-old finished with 3/ 67 in 17 overs, which loans credibility to his status as a strike bowler, with match figures of 7/98.
Lungi Ngidi took the last two wickets to claim 3/43, while Kagiso Rabada, who set in motion South Africa’s comeback, finished with 3/77 in 20 overs.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane had been pummelling the Proteas for the first hour of the third day as their partnership became positively incestuous before Rabada put an end to all that and led a stirring fightback with the ball as India went to lunch on 188/6.
The South African attack was horribly loose in the first hour as Pujara and Rahane both went to pugnacious half-centuries. India, resuming on 85/2, a lead of 58, added 66 runs in 14 overs in the first hour as the bowlers strayed down leg way too often or bowled half-volleys.
Five of the nine boundaries in that time were scored through a vacant third man boundary and second slip Markram and gully Keegan Petersen also allowed a catch, looping off the gloves of Rahane on 43, to land between them.
The bowler was Rabada and he was inspired after the drinks break, removing Rahane for 58 in his first over back, edging a terrific short delivery that jagged away to find the edge of a defensive bat.
In his next over, Rabada then removed the other set batsman, Pujara, trapping him lbw for 53 as he came only half-forward to a ball that nipped back into him to strike him on the roll.
Rabada made it three strikes in three overs when Rishabh Pant played a thoroughly improper shot, charging down the pitch to his third delivery and trying to slog the fast bowler back over his head, only to be caught behind for a duck.