India’s early progress was checked late on Day 1 of the first test in South Africa on Friday, with the tourists 28-3 at stumps and 258 runs behind.
India lost both openers and Virat Kohli as it tried to survive 11 overs before the close. South Africa, which was 12-3 and in similar trouble at the start of the day, battled its way to 286 all out in its first innings.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s early blitz of seam bowling gave the Indians a promising start in another quest for a series win in South Africa.
Kumar, who finished with 4-87, sent back Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla in the first five overs of the series-opener. A middle-order century stand between AB de Villiers (65) and Faf du Plessis (62), and a lower-order rally, pushed the South Africans up to near 300.
India’s batsmen also struggled on a green surface in Cape Town. Murali Vijay went for 1, Dale Steyn returned to test cricket for the first time in a year to dismiss Shikhar Dhawa for 16, and Morne Morkel had Kohli for 5 with the first ball he bowled.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave India a promising start to its series in South Africa, rattling the Proteas with his four wickets on Day 1 of the opening test on Friday.
Kumar’s exploitation of the swing and seam movement on a green Newlands pitch left South Africa - which gambled and chose to bat first in the series-opener - on 230-7 at tea.
Kumar, who took 4-68, toppled the top order with three wickets in his first three overs, leaving South Africa on 12-3 and captain Faf du Plessis, who took a risk to bat first on a bowler-friendly pitch, at the crease much earlier than he wanted.
Kumar took to the South African conditions quickly, removing Dean Elgar with the third ball for a duck, the other opener Aiden Markram lbw for 5 in the third over, and Hashim Amla caught behind for 3.
South Africa was temporarily stabilized by a 114-run partnership between du Plessis (62) and AB de Villiers (65) before they both fell in quick succession in the afternoon. Although Kumar was India’s standout bowler, those two crucial breakthroughs were made by others.
With the du Plessis-de Villiers partnership threatening to spoil India’s early progress, debutant quick bowler Jasprit Brumah bowled de Villiers soon after lunch for a memorable first test wicket.
Hardik Pandya worked hard for du Plessis’ wicket, seeing an ultra-close lbw decision turned down via the decision review system before, two balls later, he forced an edge behind to dismiss the South African skipper.
Du Plessis’ exit was greeted by a running, fist-pumping celebration by India captain Virat Kohli.
Mohammed Shami bowled Vernon Philander for 23 just before tea as India’s seamers rumbled on.
India had a flying start in a country where it has never won a series, and where it’s again facing familiar scrutiny over the gap between its impressive record in home conditions, and less-than-impressive showing on tour. India is No. 1 in the world in test cricket after nine consecutive series wins, but has played outside of Asia just once in that run of success.