India won the toss and batted first. But, after a strong start, 215 was all they managed. The Indian spinners then hit back in expected form. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja claimed a wicket each as South Africa finished the day at 11 for 2. Stiaan van Zyl was back in the hut even before he could open his account. He defended one from Ashwin that turned slightly, and only managed to give a simple catch to Ajinkya Rahane at slip. The move to send in nightwatchman Imran Tahir did not work as well. He played all around a Jadeja delivery, and lost his off-stump.
Thanks to the two wickets, India ended the day on a pleasant note just like they had begun it, as Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay raised their second consecutive half-century partnership of the series. But, it was in between these two phases that India's problems lay. 50 for 1 soon became 116 for 5, and eventually 215 all out. Dhawan and Vijay, in particular, looked in good touch as India began confidently. But, once the partnership was broken, things began happening for South Africa. Morne Morkel pitch the ball in the right areas, and was rewarded for the same. And Simon Harmer bowled impressively for his four wickets although the pitch made him look like Shane Warne.
While Harmer and Morkel combined to claim seven wickets between themselves, it was Dean Elgar who provided South Africa with the opening breakthrough. Dhawan went down the pitch to Elgar, but he only managed to chip one back to the bowler as the delivery spun and took the inside half of the bat. Vijay, as always, looked composed out in the middle, but his tendency to play across the line cost him again. On 40, Vijay tried to turn one on the leg side. But, Morkel managed to move the ball away just slightly, enough for it to beat the bat, and trap him lbw. It was a start that wasn't converted yet again.
The trio of Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane were key to India's fortunes, but all of them failed although Pujara and Kohli got into the 20s. Pujara had reached 21 when a defensive shot beat his bat, and Harmer had hit caught in front of the stumps, a kind of Pujara dismissal we are getting accustomed to. Kohli has been promising a big innings for a while, but has failed to deliver. This knock was no different. After hanging around for his 22, Kohli nicked one from Morkel that pitched and moved away from him. In between, the pacer cut through Rahane's defence, and ensured his poor home run continued.
Rohit Sharma did not have a memorable comeback to Test cricket. He was out caught bat pad off Harmer as de Villiers ran in from leg slip to take the catch. Jadeja rode his luck while Wriddhiman Saha batted defiantly, and it were their 30s that gave the Indian total a sense of respectability. It did not last long enough though. Jadeja was clean bowled as he tried to hit out against an accurate Kagiso Rabada while Saha, after doing all the hard work, played a loose flick against Harmer as Duminy at midwicket took a smart catch. The tail was easily disposed off, but by the end of the day, India had spun their way back into the match.
-- By A Cricket Correspondent