VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit centuries in a record partnership before India declared their first innings on 643 for six, on Day 3 of the second and final Test against South Africa, at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, on Tuesday.
The total is India's highest against South Africa, beating the 627 they scored at Chennai in 2007-08, and gave them a huge lead of 347 runs.
In their second innings, South Africa faced just five deliveries, scoring six for no loss, before play was called off early due to bad light. In their first essay, they were dismissed for 296.
Laxman continued his love affair with the Eden Gardens, bringing up his fourth century in his ninth match at the historic venue. He was unbeaten on 143 off 260 deliveries, inclusive of 16 boundaries.
Dhoni registered his first Test century in Kolkata, scoring 132 from 187 deliveries, inclusive of 12 boundaries and three sixes. The duo were involved in an unbroken stand of 259 runs, a new record partnership for the seventh wicket. It bettered the 235-run stand between Ravi Shastri and Syed Kirmani against England at the Wankhede in 1984-85.
Amit Mishra's wicket was the only success for the South Africans on Day 3; he scored 28 from 38 deliveries.Morning session: (89 runs, 26 overs, 1 wicket)
It was a gloomy morning, but VVS Laxman started brightly, hitting with three boundaries in the first two overs of the day. He flicked Dale Steyn for two consecutive boundaries through square leg in the opening over and followed it up by a sweetly-timed boundary through the covers off Paul Harris.
In the next over, Amit Mishra charged down the wicket to Harris and lifted him over mid-on for a boundary. The South African fielding disappointed again as Jacques Kallis dropped Mishra (5) when the batsman edged Harris while trying to cut one through point.
Surprisingly, South Africa did not take the second new ball after 80 overs and the Indian batsmen found the going quite easy against Kallis and Harris. In fact, Mishra tried to accelerate and slammed Kallis for two boundaries through the off-side to take India to 372 for five after 83 overs.
It was not long before South Africa decided to take the second new ball and Steyn came into the attack for the 85th over of the innings. What worked in India's favour was night-watchman Mishra keeping the scoreboard busy. He bagged two more boundaries off Steyn to race to 25 -- five boundaries -- and stretch India's lead.
Mishra got a second lifeline when he tried to loft Steyn down the ground but captain Graeme Smith dropped a straightforward catch at mid-off, in the 87th over.
However, South Africa had their man in the next over when Kallis took a brilliant catch at second slip as Mishra edged an attempted upper cut against Morkel. The night-watchman had done his job to perfection, playing an important innings of 28 that included five boundaries in 38 deliveries. (384-6, 87.4)
Mark Boucher's absence was sorely felt behind the wickets. AB de Villiers grassed another opportunity when he failed to react in time to an inside edge off Laxman, which went to the boundary, much to the frustration of bowler Morkel, in the 92nd over.
Laxman showed his class as he pulled a short delivery from Steyn through midwicket for a boundary, his seventh of the innings, to move to 31 and take India's lead past the 100-run mark.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni also took a cue from Laxman's book and pulled Kallis for a four in the next over to take India's total past the 400-run mark in the 94th over.
Dhoni then went after Harris in his first over of a new spell as he charged down the wicket and hit a straight six to take the total to 423 for six after 100 overs.
Kallis was having a nightmare behind the stumps, especially against Kallis. This time it was Dhoni (39) who benefitted when his edge against Harris flew past a diving Kallis in the lone slip region for a boundary, in the 102nd over.
At lunch on the third day, India reached 431 for six in 102 overs, stretching their lead to 135 runs. Laxman was unbeaten on 39 from 96 deliveries, while Dhoni was not out on 27 from 45 deliveries; the duo added 47 runs for the seventh wicket to build the lead.
For South Africa, there was little joy for the bowlers as the Indian batsmen kept scoring at a good rate. Kallis took one good catch to dismiss Mishra but grassed two opportunities off Harris to make matters worse for South Africa.
Post-lunch session: (117 runs, 30 overs)
Laxman started the session with a cracking boundary through point as Wayne Parnell dropped it short and wide in the first over after the break.
The right-hander continued his good record at the Eden Gardens and brought up his fourth half-century at the venue. It took Laxman 107 deliveries to reach the landmark, having hit nine boundaries, in the 105th over as India continued to dominate the Test.
Laxman, who missed the last two Tests in India because of an injury, has now scored a half-century in seven consecutive Tests, the run of form starting last year against New Zealand in Napier.
Dhoni was not far behind either, hitting boundaries in consecutive overs, against Parnell and Harris to move to 44 and take the total to 461 for six after 108 overs.
A few overs later, Dhoni completed his half-century with a single on the leg side off Morkel in the 113th over of the innings. It took the Indian captain 77 deliveries to reach the landmark, which included seven boundaries and a six.
With all regular bowlers struggling to make an impression, Smith brought on J P Duminy. The part-timer had struck with the big wicket of Sehwag in his only over in the match, but in his second over he was hit for a boundary each by Dhoni and Laxman.
The Indian total continued to grow at a good rate as they crossed the 500-run mark in the 119th over, taking the lead past 200 runs.
Steyn's frustration continued to grow as Laxman welcomed him for a new spell with a delightful boundary through the cover region, and a few overs Dhoni thumped him through point, as India reached 535 for six in 127 overs.
The duo played out a few quiet overs before the break as India reached 548 for six in 132 overs at tea on the third day. Laxman inched closer to yet another hundred at the Eden Gardens. He was on 97 from 184 deliveries, inclusive of 12 boundaries, while Dhoni was not out on 85 from 137 deliveries, inclusive of ten boundaries and a six, as the duo added 164 runs for the sixth wicket.
The South African bowlers made no impact in the post-lunch session and it looked like they were just going through the motions in the session. India will hope to score another 150 or 200 runs before declaring their second innings late on day three or after an hour on the fourth day.
Post-tea session: (101 runs, 21.5 overs)
In the fourth over after the break, Laxman gave his beloved Kolkata fans another reason to celebrated when he brought up his fourth century at the venue. The stylish right-hander took 203 deliveries, hitting 12 boundaries, to complete his 15th Test century as India's total read 555 for six in 136 overs.
In the next over, he drove a full delivery from Harris through the covers for a boundary to bring up 1000 runs in his ninth match at the Eden Gardens, having hit four hundreds and three fifties.
Laxman looked to lift the tempo after getting to his century and hit boundaries in successive overs off Harris and Duminy. He then played his trademark flick through midwicket off Morkel to bring up the 200-run partnership in 318 deliveries for the seventh wicket with Dhoni in the 141st over.
A few overs later, Dhoni brought up his fourth Test century off 158 deliveries with a single on the leg side against Duminy in the 144th over. This was his first century at the Eden Gardens and first against South Africa and his first while batting at number eight.
The Indian total continued to grow as it went past the 600-run mark in the 146th over, the lead having crossed the 300-run mark.
Once Dhoni had crossed the three-figure mark he decided it was time to attack the bowlers and score fast runs. He went after Duminy and hit the part-timer for two successive sixes over mid-on to swell the lead to 322 runs with an hour to go for stumps on the third day.
The duo also created a new partnership record for the seventh wicket for India going past the 235-run stand between Shastri and Kirmani against England at Wankhede in 1984-85.
India were 635 for six in 151 overs, their highest total against South Africa, beating the 627 they scored at Chennai in 2007-08.
Dhoni hit Parnell for boundaries in consecutive overs before deciding that he had enough runs on the board, leaving him with a few overs to have a go at the South African batsmen.
India declared their first innings on a mammoth 643 for six in 153 overs, their highest total against South Africa in Test cricket. They took a huge lead of 347 runs, leaving South Africa to survive for around 30 minutes before close on the third day.
Just like Sehwag and Tendulkar on day two, Laxman and Dhoni made the South Africans grind with a dominating batting display.
Laxman finished unbeaten on a splendid innings of 143, which included 16 boundaries in 260 deliveries. At the other end, Dhoni made 132 from 187 deliveries, hitting 12 boundaries and three sixes; the two batsmen were involved in an unbroken stand of 259 runs in 393 deliveries for the seventh wicket.
All the South African bowlers suffered as they conceded more than 100 runs each. Steyn's failure to repeat his Nagpur heroics saw the visitors struggle to make an impact with the ball. The pacer took one for 115 in 30 overs, while Morkel took two for 115 in 26 overs. Harris bowled most of the overs, taking one for 182 in 50 overs, with just five maidens, while Parnel struggled too, giving away 103 runs in 20 overs.
South Africa batted just five deliveries before light was offered to the two openers, who had no hesitation in rushing back to the dressing room.
South Africa finished the day on six without loss, with Graeme Smith (5 not out) and Alviro Petersen (1 not out) at the crease before stumps were drawn on the third day.
India will be hoping their bowlers can take advantage of early help on the fourth morning and claim a few wickets. For South Africa, it is going to be a test of survival, at least for the first two sessions on the fourth day.