Rishabh Pant century sets SA target of 212 for victory

Marco Jansen, thanks to a brilliant catch by Keegan Petersen, got the early wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara as Day 3 of the third and final test match got underway.

India's wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and India's Ajinkya Rahane unsuccessfully appeal for a leg before wicket of Dean Elgar during the third day of the third Test cricket match between South Africa. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Like the day before the second ball of the day was the wicket taker, Marco Jansen – thanks to a brilliant catch by Keegan Petersen - got the early wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara as Day 3 of the third and final test match got underway at Newlands in Cape Town.

India would not have been too happy with that start as they resumed the day on 57 for 2 with a second innings lead of 70 runs. Pujara’s replacement Ajinkya Rahana (1) did not manage to occupy the space for long as fast bowler Kagiso Rabada clinched his wicket after sending it up for a successful review.

Although those wickets were a good start to the morning, Captain Virat Kohli was still there and would not make life easy for the South Africans. Despite the imminent threat of the Indian captain, Kohli only managed to score 14 runs in the session leading up to lunch, Pant was the man on strike increasing the lead to 143 at the break.

As the afternoon got hotter, the pressure was building on the proteas bowlers who needed to break the Kohli-Pant partnership sooner rather than later.

And then, finally, Lungi Ngidi got his first wicket of the innings. Kohli played a ball he probably shouldn’t have and with Aiden Markram’s athleticism on full display in the slips, they got him for 29. India was now 156 for 5, with a second innings lead of 169 runs and it was game on again.

Ngidi, with a bit of momentum on his side, bagged a second wicket, he got Ravichandran Ashwin for 7 keeping India at bay after most of the day belonged to them. There was another big fish though, Pant (75) was moving along swiftly, consistently, scoring runs and irking the bowlers.

Eventually, after sustained pressure on Shardul Thakur, Ngidi got his third – Thakur went for 5 with Umesh Yadav the next batsman in.

The Newlands pitch was baking under the sun and the cracks were looking to make things interesting for the bowlers. Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada got in on the action, as Yadav nicked a delivery caught behind by wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne.

The visitors were now on 180 for 8, increasing their lead to 193 runs.

There was chance to get Pant as he hit a Ngidi ball high into the outfield, Keshav Maharaj was the fielder and unfortunately dropped the catch and Pant, creeping closer to his century, survived the over.

Pant survived the entire day, finishing strong with an unbeaten century guiding his team to a 211-run lead as they were bowled out for 198 runs.

South Africa are therefore chasing 212 for victory in this deciding test match. Remember, India have never won a test series in the country, meaning the hosts have an extra layer of motivation and two days to bat. So, it’s certainly game on!

Openers Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram came out to bat and unfortunately as the story has gone the last couple of test matches, Markram was the first wicket to fall (for only 16 runs) failing to build a solid opening partnership with his captain once again.

At least, coming in at number three on the batting order was the in form Keegan Petersen joining Elgar as they looked to close the day on a high note, they managed a 78 run partnership.

At the stroke of stumps, Elgar fell for 30 at the hands of Jasprit Bumrah who give the visitors a glimmer of hope as they look to tomorrow and a potentially historic victory on South African soil.

South Africa will resume on 101/2, trailing India by 111 runs.