Cheteshwar Pujara scored a sparkling unbeaten 135 as India took a stranglehold over South Africa in the first Test in Johannesburg on Friday.
The top-order displayed remarkable application on Day 3, as the tourists, after dismissing the hosts for 244 in the first innings, swelled their overall lead to 320.
After gaining a slender 36-run lead, India’s batsmen batted with maturity to end the day on a solid 284 for 2.
The 25-year-old Pujara was unbeaten on 135, registering his sixth Test century in the process, while the in-form Virat Kohli, who scored a hundred in the first innings, looked good for another in an unbeaten 77.
The duo put on 191 runs for the unbroken third-wicket stand in only 44.1 overs as South Africa were dealt a telling blow when Morne Morkel was ruled out of the match after suffering a ligament tear in his ankle while fielding.
Pujara, who was dropped on 51 by leggie Imran Tahir off his own bowling, made full use of the reprieve, hitting 18 boundaries off the 221 balls he faced.
Unlike the first innings, Kohli played second fiddle, hitting eight fours off 132 balls, as South Africa captain Graeme Smith was unable to devise a strategy to separate the well-set pair.
With two full days left to play in the Test, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team will look to extend the lead by piling quick runs on early Day 4 and dismiss the Proteas, who will have to bat last on a deteriorating Wanderers track.
In the morning, veteran pacer Zaheer Khan (4-88) took three of the remaining four South Africa wickets after they added only 31 runs to their overnight score of 213 for 6.
Zaheer now has 299 wickets in Tests and needs only one more to become the fourth Indian bowler after Kapil Dev, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to enter the '300-club'.
Ishant Sharma also picked up a wicket on Day 3 to finish the first innings with impressive figures of four for 79.
In the first session, Shikhar Dhawan (15) was the only batsman dismissed. He became Vernon Philander's 100th Test victim after edging one to Jacques Kallis in the slip cordon.
Philander went one better than countryman Dale Steyn, who reached the milestone in 20 Tests.
Tamil Nadu opener Vijay looked assured during his 94-ball knock, hitting five boundaries, and was unfortunate to get out after settling down.
He flicked a delivery from Jacques Kallis (1-23) down leg-side into the hands of AB de Villiers behind the stumps.
Earlier, Zaheer and Ishant picked the last four wickets as the Proteas' innings ended in less than an hour of the opening session on Day 3.
Vernon Philander and Faf du Plessis resumed their 67-run partnership, looking to extend India's time on the field.
The former started the day with a boundary off the first ball, driving him through the covers and bringing up his 50.
But he couldn't go on for long, edging Zaheer to first slip to Ashwin. Philander was out for 59 runs, facing 86 balls, hitting seven fours.
At the other end, Ishant accounted for Dale Steyn, with Rohit Sharma too held an easy catch at third slip.
Du Plessis scored 20 runs off 77 balls before Zaheer removed him with one that held its line and then finished the innings off by cleaning up Morne Morkel.
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photograph: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images