Famed Indian batting fails to deliver
India's vulnerability to short pitched bowling was exposed as South Africa speedsters Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel exploited seaming conditions to leave the visitors in tatters on a rain-hit opening day of the first Test in Centurion on Thursday.
Put into bat after a four-hour rain delay, India were left gasping at a precarious 136 for nine at stumps with Steyn (3/43) and Morkel (4/20) ripping through their famed batting line-up.
Steyn and Morkel hurled down a barrage of bouncers, extracting pace and movement on a Supersport Park pitch which appeared to have lots of moisture due to overnight and early morning rain, and also a tinge of green.
At stumps after 38.1 overs' play, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was batting on 33 from 47 balls while debutant Jaidev Unadkat was giving him company on one on an eventful first day's play.
Image: South Africa's Dale Steyn celebrates after picking up India's Virender Sehwag during the first Test match at Centurion
Steyn snaps Sehwag early
The much talked about duel between Virender Sehwag and Steyn lasted just three balls with the Indian opener out for a third-ball duck.
Sehwag quietly let go the last two balls of Steyn's opening over but could not resist the temptation to whack a length ball in the first delivery of the fast bowler's second over and South Africa's third.
Sehwag opened his bat without completely reaching to the pitch of the ball wide outside the off and the ball went up the air to Hashim Amla at third man and India were one for one.
Morkel, on the otherhand, extracted fiery pace and bounce throughout the session, kept the pressure on Gautam Gambhir with short pitch stuff but Rahul Dravid eased off a bit with two boundaries off Steyn in the fifth over.
Morkel finally got his man in Gambhir who ended his laboured innings for a 43-ball five, edging a full length delivery. Gambhir, who at one time could not score a single run for 20 balls, drove without much footwork to find the outside edge land to Paul Harris' hands at first slip an hour into the day's play.
Image: South Africa's Dale Steyn celebrates after picking up India's Virender Sehwag
Tendulkar stands tall
Dravid too fell soon after Gambhir's departure in Morkel's next over, plumbed leg-before-wicket to a ball, which jagged back inside. When Dravid departed India were in deep trouble at 27 for three.
Before falling for 14, Dravid overtook former West Indian captain Brain Lara as the the third highest run-getter in the history of Test cricket -- behind Sachin Tendulkar (14,3666) and Ricky Ponting (12,332) -- when he reached 11.
Sachin Tendulkar looked crisp in his short stay at the crease as he counter attacked the South African pacers.
Tendulkar smote Steyn for two fours off Steyn in the first over after tea and it seemed for a while that India would start coming back into the match.
Image: India's Sachin Tendulkar plays a shot during the first Test match against South Africa at Centurion
Steyn-gun fires once again
But Steyn had other ideas as he sent down a fast stuff which knocked off Laxman's middle stump like an arrow to end the Indian's innings of seven from 20 balls.
The next over, Kallis showed the depth of South Africa's pace battery removing Raina whose half-hearted shot went straight into the hands of third slip fielder AB de Villiers.
India's hopes of a respectable first innings total almost disappeared with Tendulkar found himself plumbed in front of wickets with a length delivery that straightened a bit and hit the pads as the Indian played across the line.
Image: India's VVS Laxman is clean bowled during the first Test match against South Africa at Centurion
Dhoni stands tall among the ruins
India were saved from complete disaster with a 39-run partnership from 45 balls between Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh for the seventh wicket.
Harbhajan, who hit back-to-back centuries recently, was looking to play another crucial knock down the order whacking a six and a four off paceman Lonwabo Tsotsobe which prompted a brief exchange of words between the two before he was out in a bizzare way.
The Indian off-spinner was slow to turn for the second run after Dhoni pushed through cover but he had almost made it before his bat fell from his hand just inches near the crease and Boucher underarmed the throw onto the stumps.
Ishant Sharma failed to open his account as he hung out to a Morkel delivery outside the off-stump.
Sreesanth emulated his pace colleague Ishant by scoring a duck but debutant Unadkat and Dhoni so far have stitched up a 20-run partnership for the unbroken last wicket.
Image: India's MS Dhoni plays a shot during the first Test against South Africa at Centurion