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PHOTOS: Pant scores 100, but South Africa on course

Last updated on: January 13, 2022 22:38 IST
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Images from Day 3 of the third Test between South Africa and India, in Cape Town, on Thursday.

India's Rishabh Pant celebrates after getting to 100 in the second innings on Day 3 of the third Test against South Africa, in Cape Town, on Thursday.

IMAGE: India's Rishabh Pant celebrates after getting to 100 in the second innings on Day 3 of the third Test against South Africa, in Cape Town, on Thursday. Photograph: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

Rishabh Pant was fearless without being careless while scoring a brilliant hundred in adverse circumstances, but South Africa were on course for a memorable series win against India on a day when visiting skipper Virat Kohli was left fuming due to a contentious DRS decision in the third and final Test, in Cape Town, Thursday.

 

Pant's unbeaten 100 off 139 balls, his fourth Test hundred, constituted for more than 50 per cent of India's shoddy second innings total of 198, with Kohli's 29 off 143 balls being the second highest individual score.

South Africa's Dean Elgar and Keegan Petersen during their 78-run partnership in the second innings.

IMAGE: South Africa's Dean Elgar and Keegan Petersen during their 78-run partnership in the second innings. Photograph: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

With an easy target of 212 to chase, South Africa were 101 for 2 at stumps after their dogged skipper Dean Elgar (30) was finally out, tickling down the leg side, and giving India some breathing space going into the fourth and probably the final day of the series.

With 111 runs left, the match is expected to end early on Friday either way, but at the moment the Proteas look way ahead.

Virat Kohli and his teammates react after losing a leg before wicket review against Dean Elgar.

IMAGE: Virat Kohli and his teammates react after losing a leg before wicket review against Dean Elgar. Photograph: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

With eight batters failing to reach even double figures, no amount of excuses would be enough for India when they analyse the below par show with the new team management's decision to carry over-the-hill out of form seniors, which only compounded problems. It's up to the bowlers now.

This is the first Test in the 145-year-history of the game where all 20 batters of one team were out caught.

India players celebrate after South Africa's Aiden Markram is dismissed.

IMAGE: India's players celebrate after South Africa opener Aiden Markram is dismissed. Photograph: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

There was a bit of controversy in the 21st over when Ravichandran Ashwin flighted one that straightened enough after pitching and Elgar was beaten trying to play a forward defensive stroke. The straight umpire, Marais Erasmus, ruled it leg before, but Elgar went for the DRS, which surprisingly ruled that the ball would have missed the leg stump.

It seemed a howler; more so, a technical one rather than umpiring which left the Indian team very angry.

South Africa pacer Lungi Ngidi celebrates with Rassie van der Dussen after dismissing India skipper Virat Kohli.

IMAGE: South Africa pacer Lungi Ngidi celebrates with Rassie van der Dussen after dismissing India skipper Virat Kohli. Photograph: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Funnily enough Elgar, after seeing that he was beaten, had started walking before he returned. An angry Kohli kicked the ground in disgust and then used the stump microphone to good effect.

One of the players (not confirmed) even went to the extent of saying: "Whole country is against eleven players."

Another one said, "broadcasters are here to make money boys".

India's Rishabh Pant pulls one to the boundary during the morning session on Day 3.

IMAGE: India's Rishabh Pant pulls one to the boundary during the morning session on Day 3. Photograph: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

For some time, the bowlers lost focus before getting Elgar out at the fag end of the day.

The day though belonged to Pant as he scored a hundred which was as good as one would ever see. What stood out was his immaculate shot-selection. He was aggressive without being reckless and fearless without being careless.

There was a rasping square cut off a rising delivery from Kagiso Rabada (3-53) and an audacious down the track cover drive off Duanne Olivier and a six over long-on off Keshav Maharaj that came just an over before lunch.

India skipper Virat Kohli swerves to avoid a bouncer.

IMAGE: India skipper Virat Kohli swerves to avoid a bouncer. Photograph: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

These were all shots one associates with the dashing keeper-batter but what was exemplary was his use of discretion as to what kind of deliveries he would attack.

In between defending the good deliveries, he drove Maharaj out of the attack with a one-handed slog-sweep and a six over long-off. When Olivier dug one short at his pace, it was pulled for six. He hit six fours and four sixes in all.

South Africa's players celebrate after Marco Jansen dismisses Cheteshwar Pujara.

IMAGE: South Africa's players celebrate after Marco Jansen dismisses Cheteshwar Pujara. Photograph: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Kohli's presence during a 94-run stand definitely helped. He had that guiding light in the middle to go about his job.

Once Pant had unsettled the line and length of the Proteas pace unit, Elgar opened the field allowing them to rotate the strike but after Kohli perished outside the off-stump, it was only Pant who had to take the burden.

The other highlight was his batting with the tail was him taking a single off either the fourth or fifth delivery to shield the Number 9, 10 and 11 as much as possible.

Dean Elgar, right, takes the catch to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane.

IMAGE: Dean Elgar, right, takes the catch to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane. Photograph: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images/Getty Images

If Pant's learning from his mistake was one good aspect, same couldn't be said about Cheteshwar Pujara (9) and Ajinkya Rahane (1) as they put their careers in serious jeopardy.

Pujara was again cramped for room on the leg side and the tickle off the gloves was brilliantly taken by Keegan Petersen at leg slip, diving to his right and snapping it up inches from of the ground.

In the 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.

As of now, the two have played their last Test for India.

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