Nagpur: Indian batsmen capitulated meekly against both pace and spin to be shot out for 215 before hitting back at South Africa with two early scalps on day one of the third and penultimate Test at Nagpur on Wednesday.
The home team, leading 1-0 in the rubber, once again fell back on their spin force to dismiss opener Stiaan van Zyl for a duck and Imran Tahir (4), who came in as a nightwatchman, before the visitors ended the day at 11 for two after 9 overs at the VCA ground at Jamtha.
Openers Dean Elgar (7) and captain Hashim Amla (0) were at the crease to face Indian spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who tasted early blood by plucking a wicket apiece to threaten mayhem on a spinning track on Thursday.
Earlier, on a pitch that offered plenty of turn to the spinners and reverse swing to fast bowler Morne Morkel, the home team batsmen came a cropper after opting to bat first and were gasping at 125 for 6 before the tail wagged and took the total past the 200-mark. This is the third time that India have been dismissed in the vicinity of 200 in the series, having fallen for 201 and 200 in the opening Test they won at Mohali to take a 1-0 lead.
In-form opener Murali Vijay top scored with an innings of 40, while wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha (32) and Ravindra Jadeja (34) revived the tottering innings briefly. Cheteshwar Pujara (21) and skipper Virat Kohli (22) got decent starts only to throw them away.
For South Africa the early damage was done by lanky pacer Morkel, who grabbed a superb 3 for 35 in three spells before limping off the field after bowling the first ball of his fourth. His wicket-taking spells, the second and third, read 4-2-8-1 and 4-2-8-2.
Off spinner Simon Harmer, dropped from the team in the drawn Bengaluru Test after playing in the series opener at Mohali, supported him with a fine haul of 4 for 78, by getting good purchase off the turning track. Young fast bowler Kagiso Rabada and spinners Elgar and Tahir accounted for the other wickets.
There were only two significant partnerships in the Indian innings – 50 between openers Vijay and Dhawan and 48 between Saha and Jadeja.