Virat Kohli was able to consolidate and defy for more than four-and-a-half hours, but the rest of the Indian batting line-up was broken down by an excellent Proteas attack led by an inspired Kagiso Rabada on the first day of the decisive third Test at Newlands on Tuesday.
India had won the toss and elected to bat first, under gloomy skies with the floodlights on, and they were bowled out for just 223 despite Kohli’s determined innings of 79 in 273 minutes off 201 balls.
Rabada, playing his 50th Test, was superb and his final figures of 4/73 in 22 overs would have been even better with a bit more luck. The talismanic fast bowler was constantly probing the outside edge from a perfect length and used the short ball to good effect as well.
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His tussle with Kohli was especially gripping, and Rabada eventually dismissed him to claim the penultimate wicket, having the Indian captain caught behind by Kyle Verreynne, who took five catches on Tuesday.
Left-arm paceman Marco Jansen continued to cement his place in the Proteas team as he took 3/55 in 18 overs and Duanne Olivier also bowled better than his final figures of 1/42 in 18 overs.
Rabada and Olivier were excellent with the new ball and removed openers Lokesh Rahul (12) and Mayank Agarwal (15) in successive overs.
Cheteshwar Pujara (43) and Kohli then consolidated with a third-wicket stand of 62 before Jansen had Pujara caught behind with a fine delivery that held its line from around the wicket.
Rishabh Pant (27) tried to temper his aggression with the bat, but eventually cut Jansen, getting extra bounce, straight to gully.
When the wind switched to south-easterly, the weather began to clear, but left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, bowling into the breeze, deceived Shardul Thakur in the flight and had him caught low down at short extra cover by Keegan Petersen for 12, leaving India on 205/7.
South Africa then successfully prevented Kohli, who was batting with the skill of yore, from making hay with the fast bowlers as Rabada and Lungi Ngidi (14.3-7-33-1) wrapped up the innings.
Proteas captain Dean Elgar, prodding towards mid-on as Jasprit Bumrah angled the ball across the left-hander, was caught in the slips for just three, but Aiden Markram (8) and Keshav Maharaj (6) made it through to stumps on 17/1.