Indian batsman Hardik Pandya raises his bat as he celebrates scoring a half-century during the second day of the first Test against South Africa at Newlands stadium in Cape Town

Cape Town (AFP) - Hardik Pandya went on a thrilling counter-attack to halt South Africa’s progress on the second day of the first Test against India at Newlands on Saturday.

Thanks largely to Pandya, who made 81 not out off 68 balls, India were 185 for seven at tea in reply to South Africa’s first innings of 286.

India had been in deep trouble at 92 for seven in the first half hour after lunch.

Pandya found a determined ally in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who took 34 balls to score his first run and contributed 24 runs in an unbeaten eighth wicket partnership of 93, more than doubling India’s total.

Pandya’s aggression was in stark contrast to the rest of the Indian batting. The tourists scored only 48 runs for the loss of one wicket in 25 overs against South Africa’s four-pronged pace attack in reaching 76 for four at lunch.

They then lost three more wickets in the first six overs after lunch, two of them to Vernon Philander, who had figures of three for 33 at tea.

The other wicket fell to Dale Steyn, who took two for 51. Steyn left the field shortly before tea after bowling three balls of his 18th over.

He did not return to the field immediately after tea and a South Africa spokesman said he was receiving treatment for a bruised heel.

Pandya rode his luck, particularly against Steyn, surviving on a review after being given out caught behind off Steyn on five and he was dropped by Dean Elgar at gully off Steyn when he had 15.

South Africa's Kagiso Rabada in action against India during the second day of the first Test at Newlands stadium in Cape Town

But Pandya played some handsome strokes as he reached his fifty off 46 balls. He survived a second chance on 71 when Quinton de Kock missed a stumping off left-arm spinner, immediately after Pandya had hit the spinner’s second ball of the match for six.