South Africa claimed wickets in the first two overs of the third day but were then unable to get another breakthrough as India reached lunch on 130/4, leading by 143, in the third Test at Newlands on Thursday.
Just as the Proteas lost Aiden Markram in dramatic fashion on the second delivery of the second day, so left-arm paceman Marco Jansen made an immediate strike with the second ball of the third day, helped by an outstanding catch by Keegan Petersen at leg-slip.
Jansen was bang on target with an awkward lifter rearing into Cheteshwar Pujara’s armpit, which the veteran batsman fended away between the wicketkeeper and leg-slip, only for Petersen to dive full-length and make a one-handed grab of the ball as it flew behind him.
Pujara departed on his overnight score of 9 and, in the next over, Ajinkya Rahane fell for just a single. Kagiso Rabada made a delivery explode from a length, brushing the batsman’s glove. Wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne leapt but could only parry the ball upwards, with first slip Dean Elgar catching the rebound.
India were in trouble on 58/4, only leading by 71 runs, but captain Virat Kohli dug in and Rishabh Pant played impressively with controlled aggression as they added 72 for the fifth wicket.
Kohli, who batted for four-and-a-half hours in the first innings in scoring 79, was in a similarly cautious frame of mind, once again shoring up the Indian innings as he went to lunch on a grinding 28 not out off 127 balls.
Pant was able to help himself to four fours and a six as the intensity of the Proteas bowling effort tailed off under the hot sun, the wicketkeeper/batsman going to a 58-ball 51 not out.
Pant’s vital innings has boosted India’s lead to such an extent that they will now be confident of setting South Africa a target of more than 250 on a pitch which is still offering some assistance, by way of variable bounce, to the pacemen.