Pandya heroics keep India in with a sniff at Newlands
Hardik Pandya almost single-handedly kept India in with a chance of winning the first Test against South Africa, limiting the Proteas' advantage with a superb all-round performance on day two at Newlands.
Pandya launched a thrilling counter-attack after his side had slumped from an overnight score of 28-3 to 92-7, the 24-year-old striking 14 fours and a six as he thumped 93 from 95 balls and dominated an eighth-wicket stand with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (25) worth 99.
India were dismissed for 209 and conceded a first-innings deficit of 77 despite Pandya's heroics, Kagiso Rabada (3-34) and Vernon Philander (3-33) doing the bulk of the damage.
Yet Pandya was not finished there and went on to remove home openers Aiden Markram (34) and Dean Elgar (25) as South Africa closed on 65-2, still very much holding the upper hand with a lead of 142.
An injury scare for Dale Steyn could be of greater concern to the Proteas. The veteran paceman - making his first Test appearance since November 2016 following a serious shoulder problem - was sent for scans on a bruised left heel after leaving the field late in the afternoon.
Having resumed in a position of peril, India added just 48 runs prior to lunch on Saturday - Cheteshwar Pujara defiantly holding firm either side of Rabada trapping Rohit Sharma (11) lbw for the morning's only wicket.
Pujara threw his wicket away from the first delivery of the second session, though, as he was caught behind chasing a length ball from Philander that seamed away.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha soon followed Pujara back to the pavilion to leave India in disarray, but Pandya survived two early scares, successfully reviewing to deny Steyn a wicket before being dropped in the gully off the same bowler on 15.
Elgar was the guilty fielder and his error was swiftly punished as Pandya set about taking the attack to South Africa in spectacular fashion with an array of flamboyant strokes.
Pandya, who also survived a stumping chance off Keshav Maharaj on 71, was eventually ousted by Rabada after tea - caught behind attempting a ramp shot amid a short-ball barrage as India's innings was finally wrapped up.
South Africa then strengthened their position through Markram and Elgar, the latter riding his luck on more than one occasion, but Pandya accounted for both batsmen to round off his wonderful day and keep India's slim hopes alive.