Rishabh Pant became the first Indian wicketkeeper in history to hit a century in a Test against South Africa. His century, which overtook the previous highest of 90 by MS Dhoni in Centurion in 2010, has boosted India to a competitive lead on day 3. By the tea break, India had crossed the 200-run barrier, giving South Africa a target of 209 to chase in the fourth innings. Rishabh Pant farmed the strike with the tail-enders and helped India immensely.
Pant’s knock and the partnership that he shared with Virat Kohli might go a long way in India winning the Test match in Cape Town. The average fourth-innings total in Cape Town is 161. This suggests that batting last at the venue is an absolute challenge. But, this was Pant’s fourth century and remarkably, three of them have come in overseas tours. Pant’s first century was against England at The Oval in which he smashed 114 in 2018. In 2019, Pant hammered 159 against Australia in Sydney. This made him the only Indian keeper in history to score two away centuries. With this century in Cape Town, Pant has established himself as the best wicketkeeper-batsman from India in overseas conditions.
Prior to Rishabh Pant’s centuries in the SENA Countries, Indian wicketkeepers had scored only three centuries in a period of 64 years. But, in the last four years, Pant has already doubled the tally. The left-hander came into bat when India was staring down the barrel in the first session. India had lost Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane cheaply. Pant came in and immediately took the attack to the South Africa bowlers.
Pant got going with a couple of boundaries off Kagiso Rabada. He also took a liking for Lungi Ngidi and Duanne Olivier as India made steady progress. At the other end, Virat Kohli was consuming plenty of balls and wearing down the South Africa pacers. When Keshav Maharaj came into the attack, Pant immediately dispatched him for a six over long-on. At the end of the lunch break, Pant had notched up a brilliant fifty.
On resumption, Kohli tried to be positive but he played a loose shot against Ngidi and was dismissed. Thus, his century drought in Tests continues for one more series. R Ashwin and Shardul Thakur also fell cheaply. But, Pant hung in and pushed India’s lead along. He blasted two more sixes off Maharaj and motored into the 80s. There was some banter as well between Jansen and Pant. The bowler flung the ball back at the batter and he nonchalantly dead-batted it.
Pant entered the 90s with a six and a four off Olivier. He survived a dropped catch off the bowling of Rabada as Keshav Maharaj was late to react. Pant took the lead to 200 and once again had a life as Temba Bavuma failed to latch onto a mistimed lofted shot at long-off. Pant notched up the milestone by pulling Jansen to the deep square leg fence. His partnerships with the tail have ensured India has a golden chance of wrapping the Test up.
Jasprit Bumrah was the last man to go as Jansen picked up his fourth wicket. India was bowled out for 198 and the target for South Africa is 212. But, if India is to win the Test and series, then Rishabh Pant’s role will be forever etched in golden words.