Cape Town – Thirteen wickets fell on Day 1 of the first Test between the Proteas and India at Newlands on Friday as South Africa fought their way back into the match after a shaky start.
In the end - and after the early wobbles that had seen them reduced to 12/3 - South Africa would probably have taken their first innings total of 286 all out.
With around an hour to bowl at the Indians before the close of play, the Proteas seamers were at their lethal best as they picked up three key wickets to leave the visitors on 28/3, still 258 runs behind.
SCOREBOARD: Proteas v India - 1st Test, Day 1
Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn on his return and Morne Morkel all picked up a wicket apiece as South Africa edged ahead in the Test.
Earlier, AB de Villiers (65), Faf du Plessis (62) and Quinton de Kock (43) had all threatened to go big for the Proteas, but the first innings belonged to Indian quick Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4/87).
It was Kumar who did the initial damage, removing Dean Elgar (0), Aiden Markram (5) and Hashim Amla (3) in his first three overs.
At that stage, Du Plessis’ decision to bat first on the green wicket he had asked for simply looked the wrong one.
But the skipper combined with De Villiers to put on a stand of 114 for the fourth wicket as the hosts started their recovery.
The pair had rescued the scoreboard and at lunch the Proteas were 107/3 with their two leaders set.
But when debutant Jasprit Bumrah (1/73) castled De Villiers and Du Plessis flashed at one from Hardik Pandya (1/53) soon after, the work had to start again.
De Kock, South Africa’s last specialist batsman, looked menacing and was going at better than a run-a-ball when he was caught behind to become Kumar’s fourth.
Encouragingly, though, the South African tail wagged.
Philander got to 23 at No 7 while Keshav Maharaj’s knock of 35 was crucial before he ran himself out in shocking fashion with a piece of amateurish running.
Kagiso Rabada also hung around for 26 before he was caught behind off Ravichandran Ashwin (2/21) for Wriddhiman Saha’s fifth catch of the day, while Steyn made 16* on his Test return.
The wicket was providing the seamers with encouragement all day as delivery after delivery moved off the surface, and the fact that India only introduced spin in the 42nd over in the form of Ashwin speaks volumes.
There is no doubt that, in the first hour, Steyn, Morkel, Philander and Rabada would have been itching to get their hands on the ball.
But when Morkel was trapped by LBW for 2 off Ashwin, the South African speedsters still had about an hour to have a crack at the Indian top order.
There was a huge roar from the sizeable Cape Town crowd as Steyn took the new ball for the Proteas late in the day, but it was Philander who got the breakthrough when he had Murali Vijay (1) well caught by Elgar at gully.
Steyn, though, had his moment in the very next over when Shikhar Dhawan (16) went on the pull. The Indian left-hander hit it straight up, and as fate would have it, it was Steyn who had to steady himself to take the catch.
The 34-year-old made no mistake, picking up his first Test wicket since November 2016 and his 418th overall. He is now just four away from becoming South Africa’s all-time leading wicket-taker in Tests.
The big fish, though, was Virat Kohli and the Indian skipper was back in the hut for just five as Morne Morkel nicked him off with his first ball of the match.