India once again won the coin toss and flourished early with the bat, before South Africa’s bowlers zoned in on the right areas of the pitch to reduce them to 53/3 at lunch on the first day of the second Test at the Wanderers on Monday.
The tourists did not have Virat Kohli at the toss this time, their skipper pulling out of the match due to back spasms, but Lokesh Rahul called correctly and decided to bat first in his first Test as captain.
And Rahul and Mayank Agarwal batted through the first hour quite comfortably as South Africa’s new-ball pair of Duanne Olivier and Kagiso Rabada battled to settle on a consistent line or length.
It was once again Lungi Ngidi who led the way for the Proteas with the ball. Two of his first four overs were maidens, creating the sort of pressure that had been lacking.
And it was Marco Jansen who benefited at the other end, angling a delivery across Agarwal (26), who reached for the drive and provided a thin edge to the Proteas new Test wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne.
Olivier was much more controlled in his second spell and resembled the alpha-male enforcer he was in his first stint with the Proteas.
The Prodigal Son took two wickets in two balls to turn the session South Africa’s way.
Cheteshwar Pujara had rather dug himself into a hole by scoring just 3 runs off 33 balls, and he then lunged forward to a shortish delivery that bounced more than he expected, taking the shoulder of the bat and looping to a shortish point.
Ajinkya Rahane then fended at his first ball, when he really should have been shouldering arms, and steered it to third slip, where Keegan Petersen took a neat catch.
Rahul has batted like a responsible captain so far, reaching 19 not out at the break, and Hanuma Vihari, Kohli’s replacement, is with him on four.
South Africa have beefed up their fast bowling reserves by playing both Jansen and Olivier, leaving out medium-pacer Wiaan Mulder, while still fielding frontline spinner Keshav Maharaj.