Rishabh Pant hit a brilliant 100 not out for India on a difficult pitch on Thursday but the deciding test was still in the balance with South Africa needing 212 to win the match and take the series.
Pant’s fourth test century was priceless for India in setting South Africa a competitive total in the third and decisive test in Cape Town, where it will be a challenge to chase that total down.
India was 198 all out in its second innings at tea on day three, and no other India batsman could master the Newlands surface. Captain Virat Kohli’s 29 was the next-best score and the only other score over 10.
Pant hit six fours and four sixes in a flashing innings typical of his style, and also after coming in with India under pressure at 58-4 having lost two wickets in the first two overs of the day.
The left-hander reached his century just in time, with India nine wickets down and last man Jasprit Bumrah hanging in alongside him.
Bumrah was out soon after for 2 and South Africa took six wickets in the second session to set up an intriguing finish to the series.
The three-match series is 1-1 and India needs victory at Newlands to clinch its first series win in South Africa. The Proteas could come from behind to take the series with a successful fourth-innings chase just like they did to level things in Johannesburg.
India’s lead didn’t come easily.
South Africa struck twice in the first two overs of the day in a blistering start. Cheteshwar Pujara was out for 9 on the second ball of the day and to a flying catch at leg slip by Keegan Petersen.
Ajinkya Rahane followed for 1 in the next over.
Kohli played an exceptionally cautious innings as his 29 came from 143 deliveries at a strike rate of just 20, an unusually defensive effort from one of the world’s most talented batsmen.
But it was what India needed after those early blows. With Kohli being careful, and Pant playing his natural attacking game, they put on 94 for the fifth wicket to make sure India had a chance.
Kohli fell soon after lunch and the rest of the India lineup followed quickly, with the exception of Pant.
India set an unusual record when Bumrah was caught by Temba Bavuma to end the innings. It became the first team in test cricket history to lose all 20 of its wickets in a match to catches.
With his sensational knock, Pant achieved plethora of records.