Virat Kohli (L) watches as Cheteshwar Pujara (R) celebrates his century during their 2nd innings on the third day of the first Test match against South Africa at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
India took an impressive 320-run lead on the third day of the Johannesburg Test, riding a brilliant 135 not out from Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli's unbeaten 77.
India look set to bat South Africa out of the match, a position that they haven’t enjoyed in South Africa before.
SA missed the services of Morne Morkel, who twisted his right ankle earlier in the day while fielding in the deep.
Pujara and Kohli made short work of the others, especially leg-spinner Imran Tahir, to notch up an unbeaten third wicket partnership of 191 — the highest so far in the match.
The duo made the fierce Proteas pace attack, which came out all guns blazing in the first innings, look ordinary. They Indian batsmen were busy in the last session in which 175 runs were scored at 4.61 runs an over, taking India to 284 at stumps.
Pujara started off cautiously, taking 64 balls to make his first nine runs. But as the game progressed, he got more and more comfortable. The fact that he was dropped on 51 by Tahir off his own bowling will no doubt come back to haunt the leggie, who had another indifferent outing.
Kohli, too, seemed intent on following up his first innings ton with another big score.
Through the day, the Indians remained in control despite Vernon Philander sending Shikhar Dhawan (15) to the dressing room in the eighth over.
With Dhawan’s scalp, Philander became the fastest South African bowler to reach the 100 Test wickets.
But that did not help the hosts as Murali Vijay, who seemed in a much better touch than the first innings, made a watchful 39 in Pujara’s company.
Vijay and Pujara put up 70 for the second wicket, giving the visitors a solid platform at the Wanderers.
The hosts got their breakthrough when Vijay got a tickle on a Jacques Kallis delivery straying on the leg side. AB de Villiers took a comfortable catch behind the stumps.
From then on, it was the Pujara-Kohli show. Desperate for a breakthrough, or perhaps to balance out the over rate, SA skipper Graeme Smith tried out a bizarre move in the last over before tea. AB de Villiers took off his keeper's gloves to bowl an over. It passed without any event and the visitors took five runs off it.
Earlier in the day, Zaheer Khan took three wickets to wrap up the South African first innings within an hour of the start of play. Zaheer now has 299 wickets. He is line to join the and will be gunning for the 300-club in the second innings. He will join Anil Kumble, Kapil Dev and Harbhajan Singh in the select list.
Zaheer struck early, in the fourth over of the day to remove overnight batsman Philander (59). He continued with a probing line, around the off stump and just short of length, forcing the batsman send a sharp catch to R Ashwin at first slip.
Two overs later, Ishant Sharma claimed his fourth wicket of the match, where he trapped Dale Steyn into edging the ball to the Rohit Sharma in the slip cordon with a short one.
The very next over Zaheer struck again, with the same just outside off stump line, to dismiss Faf du Plesis (20). Zaheer then bowled Morne Morkel to end SA’s response at 244.
On Day 2, a brilliant bowling spell from Ishant Sharma had left the Proteas at 213/6. 118/1 at tea, they slumped to 146 for six and before Philander and du Plessis came up with their rescue act.
Read: Ishant, Zaheer combine to create magic once again
Read: Pujara’s first overseas century puts India on victory course
Live Commentary, South Africa First innings:
Live Commentary, India Second innings: