South Africa's Dean Elgar was in fine form. Photo: Mahesh Kumar A./AP Photo

Opener Dean Elgar led South Africa's spectacular fightback with a gutsy unbeaten century to bring his team in sight of the follow-on mark on the third day of the opening test at Visakhapatnam on Friday.

Elgar remained unbeaten on 133 after completing his 12th hundred in tests with Quinton de Kock 69 not out as South Africa reached 292 for five at tea, still 210 runs behind the hosts' first innings score of 502 for seven declared.

Left-handed Elgar, 32, added 115 for the fifth wicket with captain Faf du Plessis to launch South Africa's rearguard action in the morning before going on to compile another substantial stand of 114 for the sixth with de Kock to keep India at bay.

After South Africa resumed on a precarious 39-3, India would have expected their spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to inflict quick damages but their only success in the first session came from experienced fast bowler Ishant Sharma.

Temba Bavuma was out leg before for 18 to the lanky paceman who got the delivery to curl back in viciously and hit the batsman's pad, reducing the touring side to 63-4.

Elgar, who was unbeaten on 27 overnight, displayed nimble footwork against the spinners and was not afraid to take the aerial route to score runs as he hit 14 fours and four sixes in his unfinished knock.

He reached his century in style by hitting Ashwin over the midwicket boundary with a slog sweep and followed it up with an emotional celebration.

The left-handed batsman had a lucky escape when wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, making a comeback to the Indian side after an injury-induced lengthy absence, failed to hold on to a catch on 74 off Jadeja.

India also missed an opportunity to dismiss de Kock for seven with Rohit Sharma flooring a sharp chance at close in off spinner Hanuma Vihari.

The wicketkeeper-batsman made full use of the reprieve, producing the fireworks with a stroke-filled knock during which he hit 11 fours and a six.

Du Plessis looked fluent at the crease and used the sweep shot well to neutralise the spinners, hitting eight fours and a six in his innings of 55 before he was caught by Cheteshwar Pujara at leg slip off Ashwin. 

Reuters