Johannesburg, Dec 19: India's pace bowlers staged a dramatic turnaround with a devastating exhibition of swing bowling as South Africa suffered a stunning collapse to leave the first Test more or less on an even keel here today.
The Indians lost five wickets for just 25 runs to be bundled out for 280 in their first innings but clawed back brilliantly to leave the hosts at 213 for six at close in an action-packed second day.
The hosts were cruising along comfortably at 130 for one before the Indian pacers wreaked havoc to completely change the complexion of the game on a Wanderers track which gave assistance to the quick bowlers.
The lanky Ishant Sharma (3/64) triggered the shocking batting collapse by dismissing Hashim Amla (36) and Jaques Kallis (0) off consecutive deliveries before Zaheer Khan got rid of captain Graeme Smith (68) - all three wickets falling without a single run being added.
Mohammed Shami then struck for his team by evicting JP Duminy (2) and A B De Villers (13) in the same over to bring the Indians back into the game. From 130 for one, the Proteas were suddenly struggling at 146 for six, losing five wickets in the span of 16 runs in the eventful last session.
The Proteas, however, recovered some lost ground with Faf du Plessis and Vernon Philander stitching 67 runs for the unbroken seventh-wicket stand as Indian bowlers went wicketless for the last 21.3 overs.
Philander and du Plessis were batting on 48 and 17 respectively at stumps with South Africa still trailing by 67 runs. The Indians were unlucky not to have the wicket of du Plessis as he was dropped on 17 by Rohit Sharma off Shami at the fag end of the day.
At tea, SA 118/1
Captain Smith made the most of the dropped chance as he struck an unbeaten half century to guide South Africa to 118/1 in 35 overs at tea.
The left-handed opener was dropped on 19 by R Ashwin at slips. Capitalising on that chance, he moved to 62 not out (107 balls, 10x4) by tea. Hashim Amla was also looking good at 30 not out (64 balls, 5x4).
Smith, who has been dismissed by Zaheer on 12 occasions in international cricket, was again subjected to thorough examination by the veteram left-arm seamer.
The Proteas captain survived Zaheer's spell and was looking comfortable at the end of the second session. This was Smith's 38th fifty in Tests.
India's lone success between lunch and tea came through Ishant Sharma, who trapped Alviro Petersen LBW for 21. Since that wicket, Smith and Amla have added 81 in 21.5 overs so far.
Pitch has already showed signs of variable bounce. Ashwin was introduced in the 32nd over and he has bowled two overs for 7.
The hosts trail by 162 runs and India need to separate this pari early in the final session of day two.
India 280 all out
All the hard work of Virat Kohli on the first day was undone by India's lower order as they folded for just 280 on the second day. At lunch, South Africa were 22/0.
Resuming at 255/5, Team India's lower order was blown away by the pace of the hosts. The visitors lost 25/5 in 13 overs today in the first session of play.
Vernon Philander was the pick of the bowlers on day two, taking three wickets. Philander's spell of bowling today read 6-4-6-3. Philander took two wickets in two balls and the hat-trick was averted by Ishant Sharma.
Morne Morkel began the streak of successes for South Africa when he had MS Dhoni (19) caught behind by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers. Dhoni's partner Ajinkya Rahane (47) was the next to go, in similar fashion, to Philander. De Villiers completed four catches in the innings.
In walked Zaheer Khan and he was trapped LBW by Philander for a golden duck. This was Zaheer's 18th score of zero in Tests, most by an Indian batsman. Ishant played out the hat-trick ball but Philander returned to get him bowled for a duck in the next over.
Morkel ended the Indian innings by cleaning up Mohammed Shami for a duck as India collapsed to 280. R Ashwin was not out on 11.
Philander finished with four wickets while Morkel had three. Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis had one dismissal apiece while the other was a run out.
Barring Kohli's brilliance of 119 and Rahane's 47, the rest of the Indian batsmen did not have a good stint in the middle at the Wanderers.