Johannesburg, Dec 21: The first Test between India and South Africa seemed headed for an exciting finish with the hosts needing to score 320 runs with eight wickets remaining on a tricky last day to pull off a record-breaking victory here.
Set a stiff target of 458 for victory after India scored 421 in their second innings, the hosts put up a better batting display to reach 138 for two at close on the penultimate day today on a Wanderers track which seemed to have eased out quite a bit.
Alviro Petersen (76 batting) and Faf du Plessis (10 batting) were at the crease at stumps on another absorbing day's play which has set the stage for a thrilling finish with all three results a possibility.
A South African victory looks remote at this stage as no team has ever successfully chased down a target of 458 in Test history so far.
The highest successful run chase in Test cricket has been achieved by West Indies who scored 418 for seven to beat Australia in St Johns in 2003.
For the first time in the history of Test cricket, both wicketkeepers - AB de Villiers and MS Dhoni bowled. Dhoni rolled his arm over for two overs with the light fading today.
With the pitch showing no signs of any rapid deterioration, the Indians may find the going tough to push for a 1-0 series lead on the final day's play tomorrow, considering that the Proteas have a strong batting line-up.
The Proteas, on the other hand, will look to bat out the entire day to avoid the embarrassment of a defeat at home.
At tea, SA 38/0
South Africa openers Smith and Petersen survived 11 overs to take the team to 38/0 in an improbable chase of 458, at tea.
The pace trio of Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami beat the bat of the opening duo several times but a wicket eluded. R Ashwin too was pressed into action for one over, but no success came India's way.
Smith was given a reprieve when Virat Kohli spilled a tough catch at backward square-leg off Zaheer. The left-hander was not out on 9 (19 balls) with Petersen unbeaten on 28 (48 balls, 4x4) at the interval.
A minimum of 34 overs are remaining in the final session and 90 tomorrow. The Proteas have a lot of hard work ahead if they need to draw this Test.
India 421 all out
An hour after lunch, India were all out for 421 in 120.4 overs, setting a target of 458 for the hosts.
Zaheer played an entertaining knock of 29 not out from 31 balls. Zaheer hit two sixes, one each of Imran Tahir and Dale Steyn. The right-hander had 3 fours as well.
MS Dhoni scored 29 before being caught at the point boundary by substitute Dean Elgar off Philander. Ashwin was out for 7 while Ishant and Shami made 4 each.
Jacques Kallis and Philander took three wickets apiece while Steyn went wicketless in his 30 overs. Tahir had two scalps in his expensive 15.4 overs which went for 69.
At lunch, India 358/6
Virat Kohli missed out his second century of the match by four runs while Cheteshwar Pujara hit 153 as India extended their lead to 394 runs on the fourth day.
Resuming at 284/2, India lost four wickets in the first session. Overnight batsmen Pujara and Kohli were separated after a record-equalling 222-run association while Rohit Sharma (6) and Ajinkya Rahane (15) fell cheaply.
Rahane was out on the last ball before lunch as India were 358/6 in 106.2 overs with captain Dhoni at the crease on 16. In today's first two hours of play, the visitors scored 74/4 in 28.2 overs.
India have enough runs on the board to declare. However, Dhoni might bat for another half hour and take the advantage close to 450 runs in the post-lunch period.
Pujara once again showed his apetite for big runs, notching up his fourth 150 plus score in Tests. Kohli came agonisingly close to another ton in this match but was caught by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers off JP Duminy for 96.
Kohli had scored 119 in the first innings. This is the first instance in his short Test career that the right-hander has been dismissed in the nineties.
Kohli (96, 193 balls, 9x4) attempted to play a cut shot but only managed to edge the ball to De Villiers. He missed out on the record for becoming India's first number four batsman to score hundreds in each innings.
Vijay Hazare, Sunil Gavaskar (thrice) and Rahul Dravid (twice) are the Indians who have registered centuries in each innings of a Test. However, no Indian had achieved that feat in South Afirca for which Kohli came very close.
Pujara too was caught by De Villiers off Kallis for 153 (270 balls, 21x4). Pujara and Kohli's stand of 222 runs for the third wicket is the joint highest for India for any wicket in South Africa. Sachin Tendulkar-Mohammad Azharuddin combination had same number of runs during a Test in South Africa in 1997 for the sixth wicket.
South Africa, despite not having the injured Morne Morkel to bowl, won the session with four dismissals.
Rohit was bowled by Kallis to a ball that hit one of the cracks on the pitch and crashed into the middle stump. Rahane was caught at slip by captain Smith off Duminy on the last ball before lunch.
With few cracks on the pitch and part-timer offspinner Duminy getting two wickets, the signs are not good for South Africa batsmen in the chase.