Zaheer Khan struck twice for injury-hit India before Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla put up an unbeaten 84-run stand to steer South Africa to 90 for two at lunch on day one of the first cricket Test here today.
Paceman Khan sent back both the openers - captain Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince - cheaply after the Proteas opted to take first strike at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha.
The visitors recovered through Kallis’ crafty 55, his 53rd Test fifty, and Amla’s patient 57-ball 24.
Kallis hit six fours and a six off Harbhajan Singh in his sensible 81-ball knock.
Already without Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh, India suffered more jolt this morning when VVS Laxman failed to recover from a hand injury and his cover Rohit Sharma twisted his ankle in bizarre fashion during the pre-game warm-up.
Reserve stumper Wriddhiman Saha and talented Subramaniam Badrinath were then handed Test caps.
The hosts began sensationally with in-form left-armer Khan producing a splendid fast bowling spell to reduce the visitors to six for two within first seven overs.
Khan, who came into the match after having taken a career-best 10-wicket haul against Bangladesh, bowled a fiery opening spell to dismiss Smith and Prince in successive overs, his third and fourth.
Prince was out to a sharp bouncer off Khan as the ball struck near the arm-guard and ballooned to the gloves of stumper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The umpire raised his finger even as the TV replays suggested that the ball might have gone off the arm guard.
Just the previous ball the 32-year-old makeshift opener had survived a confident shout for leg before.
One run later, Khan sent shock-waves to rival camp by castling Smith.
Khan was supported well by gangling Ishant Sharma and the the first boundary for Proteas came only in the 10th over.
Dhoni introduced spin as early as the 12th over at 17 for two by replacing Sharma with Harbhajan. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra, preferred over Pragyan Ojha, was also pressed into service soon.
Kallis, looking a bit circumspect against the spinners, finally got a chance to free his arms when Mishra bowled a long hop and was dispatched nonchalantly to the mid-wicket fence for his first four.
The right-handed veteran grew in confidence and hit Mishra for another four and forcing him off the firing line.
He then waded into off-spinner Harbhajan and slog-swept the bowler for a six and four in successive balls.