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.

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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)