Centurion -South Africa's fast bowlers made up for lost time as they ripped through the Indian batting line-up on a rain-shortened first day of the first Test at SuperSport Park on Thursday.
Morne Morkel took four wickets and Dale Steyn three as India crashed to 136 for nine after being sent in on a green, damp pitch.
Only Sachin Tendulkar, who made an elegant 36 off 34 balls, looked at ease as Steyn and Morkel confirmed their credentials as the world's most lethal new ball pair as they scythed through the side ranked number one in Test cricket.
Steyn started the slide early when he had Virender Sehwag caught at third man for nought. He followed up with two superb, full, late-swinging deliveries to get rid of VVS Laxman and Tendulkar after the pair had mounted a mini-recovery after India had slumped to 27 for three.
Laxman and Tendulkar put on 39 before Laxman and Tendulkar fell in successive overs from Steyn, sandwiched by the wicket of Suresh Raini, who lasted only three balls before edging Jacques Kallis to third slip.
The tall Morkel took four for 20 in 12.1 hostile overs, including the wickets of Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid in successive overs. He also dismissed tailenders Ishant Sharma and Sree Sreesanth before bad light ended play. Dravid was his 100th victim in his 29th Test.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, hitting out as he was forced to bat with the tail, finished the day on 33 not out.
The only other batsman to reach 20 was Harbhajan Singh, who followed his two centuries against New Zealand, with another hard-hitting innings of unusual strokes, making 27 off 25 balls before he was out in a manner as unorthodox as his batting.
After Dhoni hit the ball to deep cover, wicketkeeper Mark Boucher collected a throw from Alviro Petersen and flicked it between his own legs to run out Harbhajan by a few centimeters.
Heavy rain overnight and during the morning delayed the start by four and a half hours and South African captain Graeme Smith had no hesitation about sending India in. Dhoni said he too would have chosen to bowl first.
Sehwag, who scored only 89 runs at an average of 14.83 in three Tests on his previous tour of South Africa four seasons ago, fell to the third ball he faced, slashing at a delivery from Steyn which seamed away from him and presenting Hashim Amla with a comfortable catch at third man.
Gambhir survived a concerted appeal for a catch behind off Morkel when he had one with the South Africans seemingly convinced he had gloved the ball to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher. With India having vetoed the umpire decision review system, the home side could not challenge umpire Steve Davis's decision.
Gambhir made another four runs in an unconvincing performance before falling in Morkel's second spell.
Tendulkar hit eight boundaries in his innings before he played across a ball pitched on leg stump which swung late and would have hit his middle stump.
India went into the match without injured left-arm fast bowler Zaheer Khan. Fellow left-armer Jaidev Unadkat replaced Khan, winning his first Test cap.
That there was any play seemed unlikely earlier in the day when heavy rain blanketed the ground, flooding nearby roads and causing a river near the ground to overflow.
South Africa – Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, Mark Boucher (wk), Dale Steyn, Paul Harris, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe
India – Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Jaidev Unadkat
Toss: South Africa
India first innings
G Gambhir c Harris b Morkel 5 (43b)
V Sehwag c Amla b Steyn 0 (3b)
R Dravid lbw b Morkel 14 (42b, 2x4)
S Tendulkar lbw b Steyn 36 (34b, 8x4)
VVS Laxman b Steyn 7 (20b, 1x4)
S Raina c de Villiers b Kallis 1 (3b)
MS Dhoni not out 33 (47b, 2x4, 2x6)
H Singh run out Boucher 27 (25b, 4x4, 1x6)
I Sharma c Kallis b Morkel 0 (2b)
S Sreesanth c Steyn b Morkel 0 (8b)
J Unadkat not out 1 (5b)
Extras: (6lb, 3nb, 3w) 12
Total: (for nine wickets) 136 €“ 38.1 overs
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Sehwag 2.1 ov), 2-24 (Gambhir 12.6), 3-27 (Dravid 14.4), 4-66 (Laxman 22.2), 5-67 (Raina 23.1), 6-71 (Tendulkar 24.4), 7-110 (Singh 32.1), 8-110 (Sharma 32.3), 9-116 (Sreesanth 34.5)
Bowling: Steyn 10-1-34-3 (1w), Morkel 12.1-5-20-4 (3nb), Tsotsobe 9-2-50-0 (1w), Kallis 6-1-20-1 (1w), Harris 1-0-6-0