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Rishabh Pant struck a high-quality century, his fourth in the format, to set a 212-run target for South Africa on day three of third Test at the Newlands Cricket Ground on Thursday. Pant mixed careful play and aggressiveness to eventually remain unbeaten on 100 as India were bowled out for 198 in 67.3 overs in the second innings.
Resuming from 51 at lunch, Pant slog-swept Keshav Maharaj and then stepped out to smash one over long-off for consecutive sixes. Virat Kohli's patient stay of 142 balls at the crease ended with him falling for the temptation of driving a wide outside the off-stump delivery. In a quest to score faster, Kohli gave a thick edge on the drive to a leaping Aiden Markram at second slip.
Ravichandran Ashwin was dropped by Markram at second slip off Ngidi. But the right-hander couldn't make full use of the reprieve, chasing a wide ball from Ngidi and slicing to Marco Jansen at gully. Shardul Thakur got off the mark with a cut through point but was drawn into the drive off Ngidi and nicked behind to keeper Kyle Verreynne.
Pant, quite until then, smoked Duanne Olivier over wide long-on for a six and then hooked a short ball over square leg for a four to take India's lead closer to 200. But he was running out of partners from the other end as Umesh Yadav edged behind to Verreynne off Rabada.
Pant got a reprieve at 88 as Keshav Maharaj charging in couldn't hold on to the chance at backward point off Kagiso Rabada. Mohammed Shami looks to pull Jansen, but only managed to give a top-edge to Rassie van der Dussen near short leg. Pant hit flat to long-off, where Temba Bavuma dropped the catch and allowed the ball to go for a boundary.
Pant reached a well-deserved century with a pull through square leg off Jansen with every member of the Indian team applauding from the dressing room. Jansen ended the Indian innings by having Jasprit Bumrah give a catch to Bavuma at cover-point to pick his fourth wicket of the match.
Earlier, Pant had played a crucial role with Kohli to get India on track after a horror start to the day saw them lose Cheteshwar Pujara on the second ball and then Ajinkya Rahane in the very next over. Though Ngidi, Rabada and Jansen made some blows post-lunch, but Pant ensured he hung around to take India's lead beyond 200.
Brief scores: India 223 in 77.3 overs and 198 all out in 67.3 overs (Rishabh Pant 100 not out, Virat Kohli 29; Marco Jansen 4/36, Lungi Ngidi 3/21) against South Africa 210 all out in 76.3 overs (Keegan Petersen 72; Jasprit Bumrah 5/42), South Africa need 212 runs to win