KESHAV MAHARAJ and Vernon Philander brought some much-needed determination and no little courage to the Standard Bank Proteas attempt to keep the Freedom Series alive as they defied the Indian attack for more than 40 overs in a record ninth-wicket stand of 109 for at Pune on Saturday.
The day nevertheless finished with India very much in control of the second Test match with a first innings lead of 326 and two full days left to play to take a winning 2-0 lead in the series. It remains to be seen whether the home side will enforce the follow on.
Maharaj scored his maiden Test match half-century (72 off 132 balls, 12 fours) and also made the top score in the innings to emulate the performance of Pat Symcox against Pakistan in 1998 of a No. 10 batsman making the top score.
Philander finished unbeaten on 44 (192 balls, 6 fours) which was, as for Maharaj, his longest innings in Test cricket.
Their partnership was a new South African ninth wicket record against India, improving on the 91 that Senuran Muthusamy and Dane Piedt had managed in the previous Test match. These two partnership records will give the South African top order much food for thought.
Maharaj was handicapped by a painful right shoulder injury that caused him particular distress when he played any attacking shot that required significant use of his bottom hand.
Philander also took a couple of blows to his right hand.
What the pair have done is to take a significant amount of time out of the game and will have provided the inspiration to attempt to save the game even though a win is out of the equation.
The only other partnership of note was the 75 for the sixth wicket between Faf du Plessis, who made his second half-century of the series (64 off 117 balls, 9 fours and a six) and Quinton de Kock.