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Put into bat in overcast conditions which suit seambowlers, South Africa lost both openers quickly but relied onJacques Kallis (81 batting) to guide them to a far morecomfortable position at stumps on a rain-truncated day.
Ashwell Prince was giving Kallis company on 28 when thestumps were drawn after an extended final session at Newlands. Having put South Africa into bat for the first time inthe series, India would have been in a better position if theyhad taken a couple of more wickets as conditions would befavourable for batsmen in the remaining days.
South Africa were tottering at 34 for two at one stage but the experienced Kallis again thwarted India's plans of ripping through the home side batting line-up by holding fort with a mix of caution and aggression.
He hit 16 fours while facing 169 balls. Kallis stitched three substantive partnerships, firstwith Hashim Amla (59) for 72 runs for the third wicket beforestands of 58 and 68 runs for the fourth and unfinished fifthwickets with A B de Villiers (26) and Prince respectively.The Indian pace trio of Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth andIshant Sharma failed to capitalise on the favourableconditions as they could get just four wickets on a day whichwas overcast for most part with two rain-breaks.
Zaheer (1/62) was impressive in his first spell when hedismissed Smith for the 11th time in all formats of the gametaken together but erred in line and length later by bowlingoverpitched deliveries and to the pads of the batsmen. Sreesanth (2/70) was also not consistent in his line andlength though he was the most successful bowler of the day,taking the crucial wickets of Amla and de Villiers.
Ishant (1/39) bowled within himself hitting the deckbesides getting movement. Harbhajan Singh did not get muchturn on the first day pitch but was able to contend the SouthAfrican batsmen with figures of 0/55 from his 18 overs. India began well with Zaheer removing South Africancaptain Smith in the morning session which had only nine overs due to inclement weather. Amla, who hit a nine fours and a six in his 80-ball stay,was at his element again after failing in the second Test in Durban.
His counterattack saw South Africa score at a briskpace though they lost two wickets, including that of Amla, inthe second session to reach 125 for three at tea. South Africa added 104 runs from 28 overs in the secondsession thanks to a 72-run third wicket partnership betweenAmla and Kallis after they reached 21 for one when early lunch was taken due to inclement weather. Amla was looking good for a big innings as he played the Indian pace trio with a lot of conviction, especially aftersecond rain break, before a poor shot off Sreesanth's bowlingdid him in.The hosts were in a tricky situation at 61 for two in 21 overs at the second rain break but Amla made his intentionsclear as he clipped Zaheer for three boundaries.
The senior India pacer was guilty of bowling juicy half volleys on Amla'spads and got duly punished in the process.When Sreesanth bowled outswingers, Amla drove throughcovers. When the temperamental Kerala speedster dug one short, Amla, South Africa's most consistent batsmen over the last season, got into perfect position to pull-it over fine-leg formaximum to complete his 19th half century in Test cricket withthe help of eight fours and a six.
However, Sreesanth had the last laugh when Amla fell forthe bait going for another pull-shot. Cheteshwar Pujara wasstationed at deep mid-wicket for this particular shot and hetook a simple catch. As play resumed post-lunch, Ishant Sharma got into theact as he got Alviro Petersen (21, 47 balls, 3x4) to drive onthe up and the snick was taken easily Mahendra Singh Dhonibehind the stumps.
In the post tea-session, India could take only deVilliers' wicket with a Sreesanth outswinger luring thebatsman into the cover drive only to swing away late for Dhonito catch the edge.Earlier, Indian captain Dhoni finally found some luck going his way as far as the spin of coin is concerned.Dhoni won the toss for the first time in the series and put South Africa on to bat as he wanted his bowlers to makefull use of the overcast conditions.
Pace spearhead Zaheer moved the ball both ways during his five over-spell. It was no surprise that Zaheer finally got his bunny Smith (6) once again trapping the Proteas skipper plumb in frontThe delivery held its line after pitching on the off-stump as Smith played thinking it to be an away swinger.The ball kept low and hit him on the back leg. This is the 11th time that Zaheer has dismissed Smith in all formats taken together.