Resuming on 55/3 after tea, India were in a precarious situation even though it had two very capable batters in Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman at the crease. Tendulkar began the last session of play on a aggressive note, striking pace bowler Dale Steyn for two fours in the 21st over.
But just two overs later, Steyn returned to remove Laxman by clean-bowling him for 7 and reducing India to 66/4. The new man Suresh Raina had apparently brought his poor form with him to the Rainbow Nation. He lasted all of three balls an was out for 1 when Jacques Kallis had him caught by A B de Villiers at third slip. India were looking at the bottom of the barrel at 67/5 in 23.1 overs.
But the South Africa onslaught didn't end there. The Little Master Tendulkar, was the next to depart when he was lbw to Steyn for a quickfire 36. India had slumped to a dismal 71 for 6 in 24.4 overs. The in-form latter-order batsman Harbhajan Singh came to the crease with India desperately needing a decent innings from him. He got off the mark in positive fashion, hitting a four each in successive overs. In the 32nd over, Bhajji got stuck into Tsotsobe, edging him for a four past gully and then carting him for a huge six over long on to take India over the 100-run mark.
But Harbhajan's riposte was short-lived as he was run out off a no-ball in the 33rd over and India were in trouble again at 107/7. Just two balls later, Ishant Sharma got an outer-edge to Morkel which flew straight to Kallis at second slip. India were looking at the bottom of the barrel at 110/8 in 32.3 overs. Dhoni counterattacked by lofting Tsotsobe for a six in the 34th over.
Four overs, later play was called off for the day due to bad light and India ended the day on a disappointing 136/9. The visitors will be hoping to last out a few more overs and perhaps cross 150 before folding on Day 2.
The match started four-and-a-half hours late due to rain, with South Africa winning the toss, and opting to bowl first. India were set with the task of seeing out 48 overs in the first day.
But the visitors got off to an ultra cautious and shaky start, when Proteas pace bowler Dale Steyn struck to remove Virender Sehwag for a duck. The batsmen tried to edge Steyn over third-man, but not getting enough momentum behind the shot, sent it straight into the hands of Hashim Amla. India were 1/1 when Rahul Dravid came to the crease.
For nearly 10 overs, Gambhir and Dravid played very defensively, trying to work the sheen off the seaming ball. But in the 13th over, Gambhir ran out of steam and edged Morkel to Paul Harris at first slip. He was on his way for 5.
Just two overs later, and Dravid joined him back in the shed for 14 when Morkel trapped the batsman in front. India were in some distress at 27/3. Then the new batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, steadied the ship by playing some forceful shots. Tendulkar went after first-change pace bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe in the 16th over, smacking him for two fours, one swatted through midwicket and the other, creamed through the covers.
But the Little Master was not through with Tsotsobe. In the bowler's next over, he struck him for two more fours, coming off consecutive balls. One shot went between midwicket and mid on and the other between the slip cordon and third man.
Then Laxman took India to over 50 with a stylish cover-driven four off offspinner Paul Harris in the 20th over. India left the field for tea at 55/3.