New Delhi: Hardik Pandya rose to the occasion and made telling contributions with both bat and ball to keep India in the first Test at Newlands but South Africa's lead swelled to 142 at stumps on day two giving them a slight edge heading into the third day.
Pandya scored 93 and stitched a 99-run eighth-wicket stand with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (25) to revive India from a precarious 92/7. The visitors finally managed 209 but still conceded a 77-run first-innings lead to South Africa, who had scored 286 all out on the first day.
Vernon Philander (3/33) and Kagiso Rabada (3/34) were the chief wicket-takers, while Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn struck twice each. Steyn, however, had to walk off the field midway through his over before tea due to a heel injury. Later, he was ruled out of the entire series.
In South Africa's second innings, openers Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram looked to be taking the game away from the Indians with a partnership of 52, but Pandya's all-round skills came to the fore as he removed both the Proteas batsmen for 25 and 34, respectively.
The hosts then chose to send nightwatchman Rabada (2*) in, and he managed to survive the final few overs in the day along with Hashim Amla (4*).
Now South Africa's sole objective will be to take their lead close to 350 on Sunday.
As far as India were concerned, they would have wanted to get further close to the SA total, but Rohit Sharma (11), Cheteshwar Pujara (26), R Ashwin (12) and Wridhiman Saha (0) cut a sorry figure. Pujara will especially feel gutted having done all the hard work to get in but not kicking on.
Rohit, who was drafted into the eleven ahead of Ajinkya Rahane, will have some soul searching to do as he looked all at sea during his scratchy 59-ball stay at the crease.
But Pandya and Bhuvneshwar stitched the partnership India longed for to deny the hosts a lead that could have tilted the scales decisively in their favour.