India came back strongly late on Day 1 in the second Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park in Centurion as the hosts closed the proceedings on 269/6 on Saturday. Aiden Markram top-scored for the Proteas with 94 as R Ashwin picked up three wickets for India.
After electing to bat, South Africa were strongly placed at 246/3 when quick wickets spoiled all the good work of the hosts' top order. It began with Hashim Amla's run-out for 82 runs, and before long Quinton de Kock and Vernon Philander also found themselves back in the dressing room without opening their account. Thereafter captain Faf du Plessis (24) and Keshav Maharaj (10) closed out the day without further damage.
Earlier in the day, the Indian team management surprised one and all with some inexplicable changes. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, one of India's top performers in the Cape Town defeat, and Shikhar Dhawan were dropped in favour of Ishant Sharma and KL Rahul, and these moves brought widespread criticism from former cricketers, especially Sunil Gavaskar who angrily reacted to these changes.
And the way the South Africans started their innings, it appeared things were going to get really worse for the Indian team as Dean Elgar and Markram looked largely unperturbed against the fast bowlers from the visiting team. Contrary to reports, the pitch at SuperSport Park showed no signs of trickery and the home batsmen made the most of its benign nature.
The opening 85-run stand was followed by 63- (Markram-Amla), 51- (Amla-AB de Villiers) and 47-run (Amla-du Plessis) partnerships. And it took a brilliant fielding effort from Hardik Pandya to change the complexion of the game. His run-out of Amla touched off the collapse late in the day. Shortly after de Kock succumbed to Ashwin and then Philander ran himself out to give the tourists the upper hand.
23-year-old Markram was a little unfortunate not to reach what could have been his third Test century as Parthiv Patel, playing in place of an injured Wriddhiman Saha, took a nice catch behind the wickets off the bowling of Ashwin. The Indian spinner had also accounted for Elgar (31). Ishant, chosen for his ability to extract more bounce than Bhuvneshwar, was the other Indian bowler among the wickets by virtue of his removing the dangerous de Villiers for 20.
South Africa made just one change in the match bringing in fast bowler Lungi Ngidi in place of Dale Steyn, who suffered a series-ending injury during the Cape Town Test.