India fought back in the last session in which 37 overs were bowled, 87 runs scored and 4 wickets were taken. There are still 14 wickets to be taken, and India would not want to rely only on magic for them. With Dale Steyn out of action with a heel injury, the hosts handed Lungi Ngidi his Test cap.
After losing the toss for the second time in a row in Centurion, the Indian captain announced that the side has made a decision to go with KL Rahul for Shikhar Dhawan, while wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel replaced an injured Wriddhiman Saha.
Ashwin was pleased with how the last session went for India. It is learnt that the conditions in Centurion may not aid swing bowling and Ishant Sharma could be considered in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Markram and Dean Elgar were content to start relatively slowly, despite the jibes from the Indian fielders about their "lack of momentum". The surface at SuperSport Park was nothing like that, however, with slow bowler Ashwin the one to profit on the opening day.
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With another lively pitch expected, the scenario looks to get all the more tougher with rain forecast as well, but Team India have the ammunition and are a much balanced side to the teams Cullinan faced in the 1990s. His answer was to shuffle down the wicket, but when he failed to reach the pitch of the ball he could only bunt it to Murali Vijay at silly mid-off. South Africa are comfortable fielding a three-plus- one frontline attacking formula, yet Morris' inclusion helps beef up both their batting and bowling.
The India quicks, Shami aside, had been well disciplined, but Jasprit Bumrah was taken for 13 in an over before Virat Kohli wasted a review for caught behind when he thought Elgar had edged Ashwin through to Parthiv.
At the other end, Amla required some fortune. The vice-captain was certain to replace R Ashwin but the sudden disappearance of the grass from the Centurion wicket on Test eve has got the team management into serious thinking.
At that point, though, South Africa were still in too dominant a position to worry unduly.
Credit has to go to Hardik Pandya for changing direction in his follow-through, fielding a ball nearly at square leg, turning around and going for and achieving a direct hit at the end that the batsman - Hashim Amla, slower of the two at that time - didn't expect action. Amla had to go for 82, and then Quinton de Kock was out first delivery to Ashwin, edging him to slip to continue his wretched run against pesky offspinners.
Pandya went short at Vernon Philander, who didn't look comfortable but somehow fended it off to a heavily-packed on-side field.