Kagiso Rabada delivered another trademark spell of superb fast bowling in the middle session of the third and final Test between South Africa and India at Newlands on Tuesday as visiting skipper Virat Kohli (40*) was threatening to go big.
Rabada (2/52), for all of his brilliance, was rewarded with just the single wicket of Ajinkya Rahane (9) in a session where two more Indian wickets fell.
At tea in the series decider, the tourists were 141/4 with the match as evenly poised as it was at lunch.
Marco Jansen got the all-important wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara (43), and Kohli now has Rishab Pant (12*) with him.
South African captain Dean Elgar continues to back his seam attack, with spinner Keshav Maharaj having bowled none of the 54 overs seen so far on the day.
SCORECARD | Proteas v India – 3rd Test, Day 1
India were 75/2 at lunch, and the dangerous third-wicket partnership between Kohli and Pujara was worth 62 when the latter fell to a Jansen delivery that found the perfect line and length to force the edge through to Kyle Verreynne.
Rahane was next to go.
Rabada, in his stride and beating the bat on numerous occasions, landed one on off that just moved away slightly as a helpless Rahane feathered through to Verreynne.
The Indian number five reviewed the decision – testament to how little he knew about the delivery – but the video footage confirmed umpire Marais Erasmus’ decision and at 116/4, the door seemed open for the Proteas to take control of the contest.
India, led by Kohli, recovered once more.
There was a review for a catch behind down leg side – Olivier bowling to Kohli – shortly before tea, but the Indian skipper did not edge the ball as South Africa lost a review.
Earlier, the Proteas – unchanged from the second Test – had lost the toss for the third straight time in the series and were asked to bowl first on a wicket that had a hint of green to it.
Elgar acknowledged that he would have preferred to bat, but the overcast conditions provided encouragement that the hosts could do damage with the new ball if they found the right areas.
Rabada asked those questions, and could have had both Indian openers out in his first four overs with a little more luck.
First, Agarwal pushed at a fullish delivery when he was 0* only to edge to Keegan Petersen at third slip, who launched himself low and to his right and nearly pulled off a stunning catch. The ball was grassed, though, and Agarwal survived.
Then, Rahul was surprised by a Rabada delivery that climbed on him as the ball flew off the shoulder of the bat but looped over Marco Jansen at gully.
India got through to 31/0 (8) after half an hour, but the breakthrough came courtesy of Olivier from the other end when he pushed Rahul (12) onto the back foot to find an edge through to Kyle Verreynne.
The hosts had bowled 22 consecutive dot balls before that wicket, enjoying the benefits that come with building pressure.
In the very next over, Rabada had his reward with a superb delivery that drew Agarwal forward tentatively. The edge was found, and Aiden Markram gobbled it up at second slip.
Scores in brief:
India 141/4 (Rabada 2/52, Pujara 43, Kohli 40*, Rabada 2/52)