Durban: An inspired spell by speedster Dale Steyn helped by some poor shot selection from Indian top-order saw visitors reeling at 183 for six when stumps were drawn on a rain-curtailed first day of the second Test match at Kingsmead, Durban.
Almost all the top-order Indian batsmen got starts but failed to continue with Steyn (four for 36) bowling a hostile spell pitching it on the seam, as the likes of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were dismissed just when it seemed that they were getting a grip of the pace and bounce of the Kingsmead strip.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was batting on 20 and added 27 runs in company of Harbhajan Singh (15 batting) when play was called off due to bad light after 56 overs.
Dhoni, who hasn`t enjoyed much luck with spin of coin lost another toss as Indians were put into bat in conditions which were absolutely conducive for seam bowling.
It was Murali Vijay who opened the batting with Virender Sehwag in the absence of Gautam Gambhir who is nursing an injury in his left knuckle.
While Sehwag (25, 32 balls, 4×4) hit a few boundaries, but he too was having a torrid time as Steyn repeatedly pitched it up and got it to swing away as both openers played and missed a few.
They played out the first 40 minutes before Sehwag`s impetuousity cost him. Steyn bowled one fast and it moved a shade late as Sehwag lauched into a drive only to be caught by Jacques Kallis at second slip.
Vijay (19) was never really sure where exactly his off-stump was. Steyn got one to move away late as the Tamil Nadu player poked at the delivery rooted to his crease and was easily snapped up by Mark Boucher.
Dravid (25, 121 mins, 68 balls, 3×4) and Sachin Tendulkar (13, 22 balls, 3×4) took India`s score to 74 for two at lunch.
Dravid, who looked solid as he didn`t look troubled by pace trio started well with a four off Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Neither did Tendulkar who hit Morkel for a couple of boundaries.
However Tsotsobe, easily the weakest link of the South African attack had the last laugh as he invited Tendulkar to go for a drive as the ball moved away and the thickish edge flew to Kallis at second slip.
At 79 for three, it was VVS Laxman who joined Dravid. Laxman (31, 4×4, 1×6) started with a pull-shot off Tsotsobe
and then hit a punchy shot through the cover point region.
As Laxman grew in confidence, he took 13 runs off Steyn, who was spitting fire with pace and movement, hitting a six and a four to take India`s score past 100.
Although Indians hit some delightful strokes, it was also a case of survival as the conditions were difficult for batting.
Dravid who batted for two hours became Steyn`s third victim when he edged another outgoing delivery to Boucher to leave India tottering at 117 for four. It was identical delivery that got Vijay out. The only difference being it was a bit widsih and was moving farther away after pitching.
Laxman fell to a gem of a catch by Tsotsobe to give Steyn his fourth wicket of the day. The Hyderabadi stylist hit a full blooded pull-shot which was plucked by Tsotsobe inches above the ground stretching to his right side. The effort was a brilliant one considering that it was Tsotsobe`s wrong side.
Cheteshwar Pujara (19) showed lot of promise during his 54-minute stay at the wicket including a confident boundary off a Paul Harris delivery.
Pujara was playing well, patiently leaving the good balls alone and pulled a couple of short ones off Morkel to the fence.
However with only three overs left for tea-break, it was Pujara`s indiscretion that cost India another wicket. The talented youngster needlessly went for a pull-shot when Tsotsobe dug one short. The result was ballooning catch that Boucher gobbled up without any problems.
With all the top-order batsmen back in the hut, the onus will be on Dhoni and Harbhajan to give the team`s score a semblance of respectability which will give them a chance to fight after being pegged back on the very first day.