Cape Town, Jan 13: Rishabh Pant slammed a sensational century and showed great resolve with the bat as India posted 198 in the second innings of the series-deciding third Test here on Thursday (January 13). The visitors - who had a slender 13-run first-innings lead - have set a target of 212 for the Proteas to chase with more than two days' play remaining.
Pant - who walked into the middle pretty early on day three - became only the first wicketkeeper-batsman from India to notch up a ton in England, Australia and South Africa. He even joined several great batters who have earned the reputation of slamming tons in all three continents in the longest format.
The talented left-handed batsman - who notched up his career's fourth century in Tests - remained unbeaten on 100 and scored more than half of the runs in the second innings. Except for Pant, no Indian batter could even cross the 30-run mark in the second innings as the Protea pace attack kept asking the right questions all through the day. Virat Kohli - who scored a patient 79 in the first innings - was the second-highest scorer for the Indians in the second innings with 29.
Along with Pant, Kohli had stitched a crucial partnership of 94 runs and kept his team in the hunt. However, the India captain's patience gave in when he was caught at slip cordon by Aiden Markram while going for an expansive drive off Lungi Ngidi.
The rest of the batters hardly scored any runs as the visitors kept losing their wickets at regular intervals. But a defiant Pant ensured his team took a lead of 200-plus runs and remained unbeaten at the other end as he ran short of companions at the other end.
It was the first instance in Test cricket when any side lost all its 20 wickets in catches. All Indian batters were dismissed caught in both innings.
For South Africa, Marco Jansen (4/36) and Kagiso Rabada (3/53) were the pick of the wickets as the duo kept troubling Indian batters.
Earlier in the day, Pant and Kohli were resolute in their defence as they took India to 130 for four at lunch after early morning blows. Pant was unbeaten on 51 off 60 balls while Kohli (28 batting off 127 balls) added only 14 runs to his overnight score of 14.
This was after Cheteshwar Pujara (9) and Ajinkya Rahane (1) were dismissed cheaply in the first half an hour. However, the early setbacks didn't deter Pant from playing his natural game as he hit four boundaries and a six while adding 72 runs for the unbroken fifth-wicket stand with his skipper, who showed remarkable composure in playing second fiddle to Pant, who went for the jugular as and when the situation permitted.
Pant, who had received flak for his poor shot selection under pressure during the second Test, respected the good deliveries but wasn't shy of treating the bad ones with disdain. He was aggressive without being reckless, fearless without being careless. A case in point was lofting left-arm spinner, Keshav Maharaj, for a six over long-on in the penultimate over of the session, signalling his positive intent.
The best shot however was a square cut on the rise off Kagiso Rabada. A smashing cover drive off Marco Jansen was equally good.
However, it was another failure for Rahane and Pujara, who might well have played their last Tests for India. Pujara was again cramped for room on the leg side and the tickle of his bat was brilliantly taken by Keegan Petersen at leg slip, diving to his right and snapping it up inches ahead of the ground.
In case of Rahane, Rabada bowled a terrific one which kicked from length and took his gloves and Dean Elgar at first slip caught it after keeper Kyle Verreynne had managed to tip it up with his gloves.
(With PTI inputs)