Bowlers call the shots

South Africa hit back after Bhuvneshwar's sparkling show

Bowlers call the shots

The Indian pace attack lived up to the hype around it by restricting South Africa to a sub-300 total but their much-vaunted batting line-up was exposed by the South African pacemen as the visitors finished the day at a slippery 28 for three.

India, who needed to bat out 11 overs for the day, not only lost both their openers but also saw their skipper Virat Kohli fall early to leave them in a precarious situation. Cheteshwar Pujara (5 n.o.) and Rohit Sharma (0 n.o.) saw off the rest of the day without further damage but their task on Saturday's second day is an unenviable one. India still lag South Africa by 258 runs and they can't afford to concede more than 100 runs to keep themselves in contention in this match.

While Kohli did receive a quality ball from Morne Morkel, both Vijay and Dhawan got out playing rank poor shots. While Vijay chased a widish delivery from Vernon Philander, Dhawan picked a wrong ball from the returning Dale Steyn to pull. The southpaw could only top-edge the ball and Steyn took the return catch.

After South Africa chose to bat first on a green-top, Bhuvneshwar Kumar rattled them with a fine exhibition of seam and swing bowling, aided no less by the helpful opening day's conditions of the first Test here at Newlands on Friday. South Africa's game-plan was to amass a big total and put India under score board pressure but their plans went awry in the face of Bhuvneshwar's hostile first spell.

The right-arm paceman took a wicket in each of his first three overs to leave the home crowd in absolute daze. Bhuvneshwar, however, didn't receive the desired support from the other end. Mohammad Shami, who was good in patches, appeared flat in his first spell and that helped the hosts get out of the hole. AB de Villiers (65, 135m, 11x4) and skipper Faf du Plessis (62, 141m, 104b, 12x4) shared a crucial 114-run stand for the fourth wicket that offset the early damage.

Thereafter, almost all the South African batsmen chipped in with useful contributions to give their bowlers to bowl with something sizeable behind them.

If India surprised with their choice of playing XI - giving paceman Jasprit Bumrah the Test debut and picking Rohit ahead of vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane -- they had a bigger surprise in store for South Africa as Bhuvneshwar gave India a sensational start. The right-arm quick relished the conditions that complemented his core skills swing and seam and rattled the hosts before the home team fought back through de Villiers and du Plessis.

The Uttar Pradesh bowler removed Dean Elgar with a ball that seamed just enough to take the outside edge of the opener to Wriddhiman Saha. Aiden Markram creamed Bhuvneshwar for four through extra cover but the right-arm pacer hit back in the next ball, trapping the batsman in front with a delivery that swung and then seamed wildly into him.

Then came the big catch when Hashim Amla played an uncharacteristically loose shot to surrender his wicket. The ball had been seaming all through his stint yet the right-hander took a wild swipe at a harmless delivery that was safely travelling to wicketkeeper. Amla could only manage a thick edge as the ball kept moving away from him and Wriddhiman Saha obliged happily.

India were in with a real chance of keeping the South Africans down to a total of around 200 despite de Villiers and du Plessis' partnership but the hosts' tail wagged long enough to stretch them to a significant total.

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