India were 61 for no wicket at lunch. The new opening pair of Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik batted soundly after captain Rahul Dravid won the toss here on Tuesday.
The tourists had not gone beyond 20 before losing their first wicket in the first two Tests. The out-of-form Virender Sehwag was dropped down the order. Karthik provided a contrast to the dashing Sehwag, batting cautiously, especially in the early overs, to be 22 not out at lunch.
Jaffer also played sensibly to be on 38 not out, his highest score of the tour, hitting five boundaries.
Although there had been expected to be early life in the pitch, the South African bowlers seldom troubled the Indian batsmen, who both played each ball on its merits.
With the pace bowlers unable to make a breakthrough, left-arm spinner Paul Harris had three overs before lunch on his debut Test, bowling steadily and conceding seven runs.
Harris was one of three changes to the South African team that levelled the series by winning the second Test in Durban by 174 runs.
Leading batsman and all-rounder Jacques Kallis returned after missing the second Test because of a minor back injury, while fast bowler Dale Steyn had recovered from a thigh injury.
The men left out were fast bowler Andre Nel, who had a bruised heel, Andrew Hall and Morne Morkel.
Karthik came into the Indian side to replace wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was ruled out because of an injury to his right middle finger that he suffered during the second Test in Durban.
Munaf Patel replaced VRV Singh in a switch of fast bowlers.
India 61/0 (Wasim Jaffer 38 n o, Dinesh Karthick 22 n o) Vs South Africa