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A direct-hit run-out of Graeme Smith ended a century opening partnership as South Africa fought to stave off defeat on the fourth day of the first Test against India at the Wanderers Stadium on Saturday.
Set to make an improbable 458 to win, South Africa were 138 for two at the close.
“We are very happy to have got two wickets,” said Indian top-scorer Cheteshwar Pujara who made 153.
“The wicket has variable bounce and the cracks are opening up so we are expecting more movement tomorrow. Conditions will be more difficult for batting.”
South Africa had reached 108 without loss with both Smith and Alviro Petersen batting with increasing confidence.
But Smith, on 44, went for a risky single after he punched a ball from Ravichandran Ashwin to mid-on.
Ajinkya Rahane fielded superbly and threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end, to the acclaim of his teammates.
Smith’s dismissal was soon followed by that of Hashim Amla, who was bowled for the second time in the match without playing a shot.
Amla made four before ducking a short-pitched delivery from Mohammed Shami which kept low, going over Amla’s right shoulder before hitting the top of his off stump.
The ball which accounted for Amla was one of several which kept low at the golf course end of the pitch.
Petersen, who scored a half-century in his team’s second innings for the first time in 27 Tests, made 76 not out and saw out the day with Faf du Plessis (10).
With the light fading towards the close, the umpires told Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni that he would have to use only slow bowlers if he wanted play to continue.
Dhoni took off his wicketkeeping pads and bowled two overs in partnership with off-spinner Ashwin.
India were bowled out for 421 in their second innings, leaving South Africa to negotiate 45 overs before the close of play as well as the whole of the fifth day.
Pujara and Virat Kohli took their third wicket stand to 222 before Pujara was caught behind off Jacques Kallis for 153.
Kohli fell four short of his second century of the match. He made 96 before he was caught behind, cutting at off-spinner JP Duminy.
Pujara said the batsmen had been determined to do well in South Africa.
“There was too much talk about this tour, about Indian batsmen not doing well overseas. Everyone took responsibility and we did it as a unit.”
The South African bowlers, who had endured a torrid third afternoon at the hands of Pujara and Kohli, came back strongly despite being without the injured Morne Morkel.
India lost four wickets while scoring 74 runs in 28.2 overs before lunch.
At that stage India were 394 ahead but Dhoni decided not to declare and the innings continued until mid-afternoon.
Zaheer Khan was the main beneficiary of the decision to bat on and hit a breezy 29 not out, which included sixes off leg-spinner Imran Tahir and fast bowler Dale Steyn.
Steyn, the world’s number one ranked Test bowler, had one of his poorest matches.
He failed to take a wicket in the second innings and conceded 104 runs in 30 overs. He had match figures of one for 165.
Steyn’s new ball partner Vernon Philander finished with three for 68, the same figures as all-rounder Kallis, who had to carry a bigger than usual bowling load in the absence of Morkel, who sprained his right ankle while fielding before lunch on Friday.
Pujara made the highest score for India in a Test at the Wanderers before he had virtually his first lapse of concentration, flashing at a ball outside the off stump from Kallis. He batted for 353 minutes and faced 270 balls in an innings which included 21 fours.
Kohli batted for 254 minutes and 193 balls, hitting nine fours.
Cracks in the pitch were starting to cause some deliveries to behave unpredictably and Rohit Sharma was the victim of a ball from Kallis which kept low and skidded into his stumps.
South African assistant coach Adrian Birrell said his team could call on past experiences as they fought to save the game.
“We’ve shown resilience and batted a whole day in the past and that’s what we are drawing on. It’s not going to be easy but we are confident we can do it,” he said.