Their 114-run partnership for the fourth wicket was quite priceless in value and, given the any-ball-could-have-your-name-on-it circumstances, the respective innings of sixty-something weight played by both Du Plessis and De Villiers nearly seemed like centuries for the gumption and varying skills under pressure they demonstrated.
It was a miserable end to a day that started so well for the tourists, Bhuvneshwar needing only three balls to dismiss Dean Elgar for a duck as he edged behind, Hashim Amla (3) doing the same after the seamer had trapped Aiden Markram lbw for five.
India had been reduced to 92-7 in reply to South Africa's 286 and Pandya had been tormented by a testing spell from Steyn at the start of his innings.
In all 10 of the 25 overs bowled in the session were scoreless and only 48 runs were scored. "That partnership got us back in the game and brought belief back in the change room".
Philander ended up making 23 before he was cleaned up by Mohammed Shami.
"If we want to be hard on ourselves, then yes, we gave away a few too many runs to South Africa".
"When AB bats you know you have to bowl well".
Kumar said India would have to bat well on Saturday but said he felt the match was evenly poised.
Yet, while that wicket carried the greater significance in terms of sentiment, the more important dismissal in the context of an already engrossing contest came when Kohli nicked Morkel behind, swinging the day firmly in favour of South Africa, who can now attack the middle order with gusto on day two.
Vernon Philander had Murali Vijay caught at gully and four balls later Dale Steyn, playing his first Test match in more than a year, caught Shikhar Dhawan off his own bowling when Dhawan's attempted pull steepled high into the air.
Kumar also rued letting the South African tail wag.
Saha finished with five catches behind the stumps.
In the past there were two worries for the Indians: One, not enough firepower to hustle the South African batsmen, and two, the technical ineptitude of the batsmen to stand up to pace. "Those runs down there at the bottom, especially in tough batting conditions, really are vital".
Instead his natural instincts went a long way to ensuring that, even as they were bowled out well inside 75 overs - hardly ideal for the team batting first in a Test - the Proteas importantly sported a vibrant run rate of 3.90 to the over, which arguably carried them some way past a "par" total.
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