Bowlers call shots on day one

Bowlers call shots on day one

The Indian pace attack, more or less, lived up to the hype around it by restricting South Africa to a sub-300 total -- 286 all out in 73.1 overs -- but their much-vaunted batting line-up appears to be withering away after the four-pronged home pace attack left them on a slippery note at 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 that left them in a precarious situation on the opening day of the first Test here at Newlands Stadium on Friday. 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 going to test their skill and temperament as they face a relentless pace barrage.

Rohit, who has been picked ahead of Ajinkya Rahane, especially will be under pressure to prove his selection. India now lag South Africa by 258 runs and they can't afford to concede more than 100 runs if they still want to fancy their chances in the match.

While Kohli did receive a quality ball from Morne Morkel, both Vijay and Dhawan got out playing 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, cramped for space, could only top-edge the ball and Steyn, who received a thunderous applause from the near-capacity crowd, took the return catch.

After South Africa chose to bat first on a green-top surface, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4/87) rattled the hosts with a fine exhibition of seam and swing bowling, aided no less by the helpful opening day's conditions. 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. What hurt the Indians most was the number of boundaries they conceded, not just to the top-order batsmen but also to the lower-order. While de Villiers, du Plessis and Quinton de Kock collected 120 runs in boundaries, the tail-enders gathered 44 runs in fours and sixes. Though wickets kept falling, the run-flow never stopped.

In the morning, if India surprised with their choice of playing XI giving paceman Jasprit Bumrah the Test debut and choosing Rohit -- they had a bigger surprise in store for South Africa as Bhuvneshwar gave India a sensational start. The Uttar Pradesh bowler removed Dean Elgar with a ball that seamed away just enough to take the outside edge of the opener en route 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 swing 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 Saha, who had busy day behind the wickets taking five catches, obliged happily.

At this stage, 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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