JOHANNESBURG -  Virat Kohli attacked, Cheteshwar Pujara defended solidly and Bhuvneshwar Kumar applied himself in the end to score 134 runs between them. But the rest - extras included - added only 53 more as India went from 144 for 4 to 187 all out on the first day of the Wanderers Test. India were not out of it yet on the evidence of the tumultuous six overs South Africa faced before stumps, losing Aiden Markram to Bhuvneshwar.

When India made the bold move of batting first on a green pitch with a lot of seam movement, despite all the pressure their batting has been under, they would have hoped for a lot of grit and a bit of luck to ride out these tough conditions. On what was not the prettiest day of Test cricket, Pujara and Kohli showed plenty of grit, some luck followed through dropped catches and a missed review, but India handed back the advantage with some ordinary batting from the lower middle order, which was missing R Ashwin as they decided to play an all-seam attack.

If India were still in the contest, it was down to fielding lapses from South Africa. Kohli was dropped on 11 and 32, Pujara was on nought when the hosts appealed half-heartedly for an lbw and chose not to review a not-out call that would have been overturned. There was more general sloppiness in the field, and comeback man Ajinkya Rahane was on 3 when he was caught behind off a Vernon Philander no-ball.

Philander was in the thick of the action all day. He began the Test with a spell of 8-7-1-1, the most economical first eight overs for a South Africa bowler in all Tests since readmission. His victim was K Rahul, with a ball that seamed back in and took the inside edge to become one of Quinton de Kock's five catches, but there was a moment when he could have supported his fellow fast bowler a bit better. Kagiso Rabada drew a Kohli top edge with a surprise bouncer, which would have been a sitter had Philander from mid-off or Markram from cover decided early enough to go for it. Neither of them did, and eventually it was too late for Philander to make up with a dive.

While Philander could be accused of being a little too short through the day, his first spell, with the ball seaming both ways, was still a testing one. Pujara took 31 of those 48 balls, which means 31 of the 41 balls Philander bowled while he was at the wicket.

There was nothing loose on offer even though South Africa didn't do enough to make India play and edge balls.

With so much seam movement available, you had to either wait for a rank delivery or take the risk of going after decent ones. Pujara took the first route. He just kept playing the line, making sure he didn't follow the ball when it seamed away, and hoping he got an inside edge or that the ball did too much when it seamed back in. There were ironic cheers when Pujara set off for a run off the 45th ball he faced only for the umpire to call it a leg-bye. There was another big cheer when he faced his 50th ball, still on zero. When the run finally came, 81 minutes into his innings, having refused to play a loose shot, Pujara had made the bowlers bowl on his pads.

India's captain took the other route. He showed more urgency, nailing drives every time a ball presented itself for the shot. There was nothing half-hearted - as with M Vijay's drive to get out - about Kohli's innings. This 84-run third-wicket partnership couldn't have done without him at the other end. You couldn't just stand there and not score. Kohli backed his eye to pick errors in length early and punish them. There were two cracking cover drives, one moments after he had been dropped by Philander. Rabada tried the one-two trick by threatening his outside edge repeatedly and then going for the lbw ball, but he never really got it right, and Kohli kept clipping him away.

The shots didn't stop; he had to keep playing them on this pitch even though they meant a slightly higher risk than usual. Post lunch, Kohli went to cut Morne Morkel, the ball was too wide, took the toe end, but this time AB de Villiers put him down at third slip as the ball dipped on him rather late. Just as the partnership was getting into the realm of the dangerous, Ngidi finally drew the edge from Kohli, a solid one on the drive. The catch nearly blew de Villiers off his feet, but he hung on, injuring his finger in the process.

Rahane couldn't make the most of his break as Morkel soon trapped him lbw with a full straight ball. Apart from the fielding, South Africa could look back at the wide lines and lengths that kept beating the bat but were not full enough to take the edge. However, the run-rate always hovered around two, which meant they could get India out cheaply if they got their act together.

It needed a change in plans for that to happen. There was debate if South Africa would have been better served by a proper batsman and not an allrounder in Andile Phehlukwayo. What can the fifth bowler do on such a pitch that the main four can't? Take an edge from Pujara, maybe. All day long, Pujara had been playing inside the line of balls that seamed away, but this one was perhaps slower, perhaps it seamed less, and took the edge through.

The lower-middle order then capitulated. Parthiv Patel nicked off, Hardik Pandya top-edged a ball that was not there for the pull, Mohammed Shami hit straight to mid-off, and South Africa were right back. The only application and resistance from the tail came from Bhuvneshwar, whose 30 helped give India something to bowl at.




M Vijay c De Kock b Rabada 8

L Rahul c De Kock b Philander 0

C Pujara c De Kock b Phehlukwayo 50

V Kohli c De Villiers b Ngidi 54

A Rahane lbw b Morkel 9

P Patel c De Kock b Morkel 2

H Pandya c De Kock b Phehlukwayo 0

B Kumar c Phehlukwayo b Rabada 30

M Shami c Rabada b Philander 8

I Sharma c Du Plessis b Rabada 0

J Bumrah not out 0

EXTRAS: (b10, lb8, nb2, w6) 26

TOTAL: (76.4 overs) 187

FOW: 1-7, 2-13, 3-97, 4-113, 5-144, 6-144, 7-144, 8-163, 9-166

BOWLING: Morkel 17-5-47-2 (1nb, 1w), Philander 19-10-31-2 (1nb), Rabada 18.4-6-39-3 (1w), Ngidi 15-7-27-1, Phehlukwayo 7-1-25-2


D Elgar not out 4

A Markram c Patel b Kumar 2

K Rabada not out 0


TOTAL: (1 wkt; 6 0vers)

FOW: 1-3

BOWLING: B Kumar 3-2-3-1, J Bumrah 3-2-3-0

TOSS: India

UMPIRES: Aleem Dar (PAK), Ian Gould (ENG)

TV UMPIRE: Michael Gough (ENG)