Virat Kohli scored 141 not out to reduce the first-innings deficit to 48 runs at lunch on day three at Centurion.
The Proteas should be disappointed with their performance in the first session. They were gifted an early opportunity to make further inroads when Hardik Pandya failed to ground his bat and was run out by Vernon Philander. Thereafter, Kohli took advantage of some inconsistent bowling to play India back into the contest.
Kohli was in dominant touch. It took him fewer than 30 minutes to convert his overnight score of 85 into a century – his 21st in Test cricket. The India skipper celebrated wildly after reaching the milestone, and then proceeded to play with the same aggression and intensity in the lead-up to lunch.
Kohli and Ravi Ashwin put on 71 runs for the seventh wicket. The Proteas battled to hit the right areas with the old ball, and were duly punished by both batsmen. India raced along at more than four runs per over during that period.
The second new ball did the trick for the hosts. Ashwin attempted to drive Philander through the off-side, and only succeeded in edging the ball to Faf du Plessis in the slips.
Mohammed Shami stuck around for a couple of overs before succumbing to a steep delivery by Morne Morkel. It was an important series of breakthroughs right before lunch.
And yet it was not enough. Kohli will be at the crease after the break.
Kohli did brilliantly to reduce the deficit in the first session. He may well propel India into the lead after lunch.
The Proteas may still fancy their chances of taking a lead into the second innings, though. The ball is only five overs old, and India only have two first-innings wickets in hand. Ishant Sharma, and subsequently Jasprit Bumrah, may battle to survive for long.
SA 335 (1st innings) – Aiden Markram 94, Hashim Amla 82, Ravi Ashwin 4-113, Ishant Sharma 3-46
India 287-8 (1st innings) – Virat Kohli 141 not out, Murali Vijay 46, Morne Morkel 2-52, Vernon Philander 1-39
India trail by 48 runs
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix