Jasprit Bumrah struck twice as India picked up wickets at regular intervals before South Africa rode on Hashim Amla's half-century to reach 143 for 6 at tea on day two of the third and final cricket, here today.
Both teams have the chance to take control of the game on day three: Every precious run India makes on such a tough wicket for batsmen magnifies South Africa's already uphill task of batting last.
A 3-0 series win will take South Africa level with the visitors at the top of the ICC Test rankings, though India will remain first by a decimal point.
The dismissal of de Villiers brought in du Plessis, who started well by cracking Jasprit Bumrah for a boundary before the same bowler came back to clip his off-stump as the Proteas tottered at 107/5.
KL Rahul was 16 not out for India and Murali Vijay 13 not out at stumps. Grateful for the unexpected reprieve, they each played a couple of exquisite strokes to see off the evening at 49 for 1, India's overall lead sitting at a handy 42 with nine wickets standing. The second innings will be very important. It is nearly a given that the 22-yard strip will come in not just for scrutiny but also censure from the International Cricket Council.
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Cut to reality. India haven't (convincingly) walked the talk yet after end of Day Two's first session.
Opener Dean Elgar fell early for South Africa without adding to his overnight score of 4. Since 1996, this is only the 2nd Test match where spinners didn't even bowl a ball in the first two innings of a Test.
Rabada‚ who soaked up the pressure by playing sensible cricket and frustrated the Indian bowlers by leaving risky balls and punishing the bad ones‚ was removed agonisingly close to his highest Test score of 34‚ scored against New Zealand in Hamilton previous year.
In walked Amla, and immediately showed his hand. Rabada (3-39) was the pick of the home bowlers. Rabada had played with poise and character in Amla's company, putting the play-and-miss routine behind him to play some cracking strokes during a third-wicket stand of 64, easily the highest of the innings.
Sharma finally got Rabada with a delivery that was angled across the left-hander and seamed away, catching an edge to Ajinkya Rahane in the slips.
South Africa had nosed ahead after the first two hours that yielded 75 and produced only two scalps, one of them the nightwatchman. While Kohli looked to attack the bad deliveries and hit a few crisp drives, he also got a life in 11 when Philander dropped a dolly running in at covers off Rabada.
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