Like the centrepiece of this unit, Kagiso Rabada found a second wind and lifted his team-mates in the process by bagging three quick wickets to restore the Proteas’ hopes of levelling the series at the Wanderers on Wednesday.
India went into the lunch break with a lead of 161 runs at 188/6, but the situation could have been far worse for South Africa had Rabada not pulled a rabbit out of a hat.
The session was edging towards the first morning in Centurion, which India used to take the first Test away from SA’s grasp with a 100-run opening partnership by KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal.
Here, it was Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane who did the damage with a 111-run partnership from 144 balls.
The pair added 70 brisk runs, were free-flowing and smooth, while the Proteas were erratic and lethargic.
When Pujara reached his 32nd Test 50 from just 62 balls, signs were ominous that a big score could be at hand.
Then, an ignominious dropped catch by Aiden Markram after Rahane gloved Rabada into the air added insult to injury.
Indian opener Cheteshwar Pujara believes that the Indian pace attack has what it takes to secure a maiden Test series win against the Proteas. Cricket
Markram looked lost, as if surprised to find himself in the cricket field, much less at second slip and backtracked to a looping ball that he should have leapt forward to grab.
Rahane made them pay and reached his 25th half-century with back-to-back boundaries.
Rabada got the direly needed breakthroughs by getting Rahane to edge behind for a well-played 58 from 78 deliveries.
Rabada then trapped Pujara in front to bring the Proteas back into the contest with India on 163/4 and the lead at 136.
But his removal of Rishabh Pant for 0 (3), on a wicket where Pant could have caused untold damage, gave the Proteas a major boost before Ngidi added shine with Ashwin’s wicket.
Scores in brief:
India: 202 all out (KL Rahul 50, Ravichandran Ashwin 46, Marco Jansen 4/31, Duanne Olivier 3/64, Kagiso Rabada 3/64)
SA: 229 all out (Keegan Petersen 62, Temba Bavuma 51, Shardul Thakur 7/61, Mohammed Shami 2/52)