Cape Town: Wasim Jaffer led India’s batting renaissance with a century as the visitors seized the early initiative in the series-deciding third and final Test against South Africa here on Tuesday.
Jaffer, barely lucky to make the eleven, slammed 116 to power the Indians to 254 for three at close on the first day, the highlight of which was the 153-run opening stand the Mumbai batsman shared with a new partner in Dinesh Karthik.
This is the first ever century stand by Indian openers in South Africa from 12 Tests and the nearest before was 97 runs put by Vikram Rathore and Nayan Mongia at the Wanderers during the 1996-97 series.
Karthik, playing a Test after a gap of 16 months, made a gritty 63 from 240 minutes and 170 balls inclusive of seven fours and did not allow the hosts a wicket till the first two sessions.
Although India lost three wickets in the final session, including the one of Jaffer, they looked set for a good first innings total and putting the hosts under pressure.
Captain Rahul Dravid (29) did his side a huge favour by winning the toss and asking Karthik to step in the opener’s slot, necessitated by Virender Sehwag’s poor form.
Jaffer went into his stride early, leading India to 61 for no loss by lunch and reaching his half century, as well as 1000th run in Tests, by driving Shaun Pollock (1/32) straight down the ground on resumption.
Karthik too reached his landmark, though he had a slice of luck on 32 when Graeme Smith at first slip dropped a catch off Pollock with the score on 95 for no loss.
The two openers duly completed the first century stand by Indian openers ever in South Africa and advanced the total to 153 for no loss by tea.
Karthik was dismissed soon on resumption by debutant left-arm spinner Paul Harris, caught close to the wicket by Hashim Amla, as South Africa finally managed their first success of the day.
Dravid got into his stride quickly, driving and flicking boundaries at will before Pollock tied him down with the most incisive spell of the day.