Hardik Pandya has been the standout India player in the New Year Test against South Africa so far with a blistering 93 and crucial wickets.It was thanks to that sensational knock in the first innings that India still remain hopeful in Newlands and many would rue the fact that the stylish all-rounder missed a well-deserved hundred by only seven runs.However, the 24-year-old said a hundred was far from his thoughts when he unleashed some thrilling shots to try and take India close to South Africa’s first innings 286.India’s vaunted top-order – Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma – had caved in against South Africa’s four-pronged pace attack but Pandya met fire with fire and took the attack to the hosts with a 95-ball classic.He eventually fell to a short ball from Kagiso Rabada, South Africa’s most exciting pacer in a star-studded line-up but Pandya had no regrets on missing out on a milestone. He had done what he could do for the team.”It always feels good to help the team out. Credit goes to Bhuvneshwar Kumar as well for the way we played,” Pandya told the official broadcasters before start of play on Day 4.India had made a sensational start to the Test when Bhuvneshwar ripped apart the Proteas top-order. AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis counter-attacked brilliantly thereafter and the lower-order showed strong resistance, allowing the hosts to post a respectable total.And then followed an Indian collapse and all hopes looked dashed before Pandya stepped in to show his more experienced colleagues how it should be done.advertisementFor a Test cricket novice, Pandya showed amazing clarity of thought. He had made his debut against Sri Lanka last year and smashed a whirlwind hundred in only his third match. For Sri Lanka’s return tour, Pandya sought a break from the Test series so he could be fresh for the South Africa tour.So, how does a man with only three Tests under his belt and two years of international cricket experience behind him, come out and clobber the fiercest pace attack in the world with such disdain?”I am someone who likes to play according to the situation. When I walked in to bat, I knew we needed partnerships. But when we lost two wickets, I knew I had to attack and get as many runs as possible for the team,” Pandya said.”I never play for my own scores. My target was to push towards 250 – I was never thinking of a hundred,” said Pandya.Pandya was not content with just that 93. He returned to the field after India were bowled out for 209 to remove both South African openers Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar in a probing spell.Unfortunately, the entire third day was washed out to rain. But India would once again bank on the man who is quickly turning out to be their X factor in all formats of the game.Can he swing it for Kohli again in Newlands? It would be a huge step-up for Indian cricket if Hardik Pandya can win a Test match on his all-round efforts. For now, all eyes would be on the young star as he goes about his business in Cape Town.