CAPE TOWN – The Proteas pacemen bowled with great fire in the final session to rock the Indian batting line-up, but Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara weathered the storm at the end of the second day of the third Test at Newlands on Wednesday.
The visitors would have felt that they are right on top in the series decider when they secured a 13-run lead after dismissing South Africa for 210 in their first innings after tea.
A fired-up Kagiso Rabada was the first to strike as he got rid of opener Mayank Agarwal for seven in the fifth over, with captain Dean Elgar taking the catch in the slips to reduce India to 20/1.
In the next over, youngster Marco Jansen set up KL Rahul beautifully with a couple of shorter balls before pitching one up, which the batter edged to Aiden Markram at slip to be out for 10, with India in trouble on 24/2.
Skipper Virat Kohli then joined Cheteshwar Pujara in the middle, and the experienced duo survived some anxious moments from the likes of Rabada and Jansen.
But the Proteas were unable to fashion another breakthrough before the close of play, with India ending on 57/2 for a lead of 70 runs, with Kohli on 14 and Pujara on nine.
Earlier in the final session, Jasprit Bumrah claimed 5/42 to help bowl South Africa out for 210.
The mainstay of the Proteas innings, Keegan Petersen, added just two runs to his tea-time score as Bumrah found the outside edge of his bat, with Pujara claiming the catch at slip.
The knock of 72 off 166 balls (9x4) was Petersen’s highest Test score, and he was well set for a hundred if he hadn’t run out of recognised batting partners.
The situation once again exposed the lack of form and depth in the SA batting line-up, and coach Mark Boucher and the selectors will have to give serious consideration to either recalling all-rounder Wiaan Mulder to bat at No 7, or pick one of the other specialist batters in the squad from Zubayr Hamza, Ryan Rickleton and Sarel Erwee for the upcoming Test series against New Zealand next month.
The Proteas were on 179/8 at that stage and trailing by 44 runs, so in that context, they did reasonably well to add 31 more runs via Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Duanne Olivier.
Rabada (15), as usual, played a few delightful shots before he drove Shardul Thakur to long-off, where Bumrah took a good catch running towards the boundary.
Ngidi (three) got a leading edge to cover, where Ravi Ashwin took the catch to secure a seventh five-wicket haul for Bumrah.
India first innings 223 all out (Virat Kohli 79, Cheteshwar Pujara 43, Kagiso Rabada 4/73, Marco Jansen 3/55)
South Africa first innings 210 all out (Keegan Petersen 72, Temba Bavuma 28, Jasprit Bumrah 5/42, Mohammed Shami 2/39)
India second innings 57/2 (Virat Kohli 14*, KL Rahul 10, Marco Jansen 1/7, Kagiso Rabada 1/25)
India lead by 70 runs