Outwitted and battered in their own backyard, India's campaign to salvage some pride in the four-match Test series began on a sour note with South African bowlers running amok on Day 1 of the first Test at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium in Mohali on 5 November.
Failing to capitalise on a good toss won by skipper Virat Kohli, Indian batsmen failed to show intent while losing their wickets to a rampaging South African brigade that found solace in part-timer Dean Elgar - the unlikely hero.
The 28-year-old spinner claimed four Indian scalps including Cheteshwar Pujara (31), Ajinkya Rahane (15), Wriddhiman Saha (0) and Amit Mishra (6). South Africa's premier spinner Imran Tahir and Vernon Philander were also amongst the wicket-takers with two wickets apiece.
Opening batsman Murali Vijay (75), who notched up his 12th Test half-century, was the only silver lining in otherwise a mediocre batting performance by India in the first innings. Apart from Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja (38) also played a crucial knock to rescue the hosts who were staring down the barrel after being reduced to 168/7 at tea.
After being bowled out for 201 runs in a mere 68 overs, the Indian fans did have something to cheer about following the early dismissals of Stiaan van Zyl (5) and Faf du Plessis (0). Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja gave India the early breakthroughs with the Proteas ending Day 1 at 28/2.
South Africa's bowling
The Proteas are on a roll with a formidable run in the last seven years in the longer version of the game. Since October 2007, South Africa have won 16 out of their 32 Test matches with just five losses. In 12 overseas series during this period, the Saffers have won eight and drawn four.
The major reason South Africa have been able to maintain their impeccable record overseas is largely due to their consistent bowling performances. And the first day of the Mohali Test was no different. The collective effort from the Proteas with the ball got India on the backfoot right from the start.
Philander got the early breakthrough after dismissing Shikhar Dhawan (0) on a moving delivery. After some resistance from Vijay and Pujara, part-timer Elgar was introduced by skipper Hashim Amla. The left-arm spinner trapped Pujara in front of wickets and in a matter of four deliveries Kangiso Rabada got rid of Indian captain Virat Kohli (1).
Elgar struck again to dismiss Rahane and Saha in consecutive deliveries and rattled the hosts. Off-spinner Simon Harmer soon ended Vijay's resistance as Proteas looked to run through India's batting line-up. Tahir, too, sprung into action with his two wickets of tail-enders Umesh Yadav (5) and Varun Aaron (0). The Saffers finally put India out of their misery in the 68th over as the hosts were bowled out for 201 runs.
India's batting woes
Electing to bat in overcast conditions on a slow wicket, Indian batsmen failed miserably to survive the South African challenge right from the beginning of their tumultuous innings. The hosts lost Shikhar Dhawan without a run on board, but Vijay and Pujara steadied the boat with a 63-run stand before the bowlers struck back.
The Indian middle-order collapsed with Kohli, Rahane and Saha falling cheaply. Vijay, who had stitched a 37-run fourth wicket partnership with Rahane, managed a 38-run partnership with Jadeja to raise hopes of an Indian recovery. But that was not to be as off-spinner Simon Harmer got the dangerman trapped LBW and the hosts slipped further.
Jadeja continued to hold the fort at one end while wickets kept tumbling at the other. Ashwin also added a crucial 20 runs and remained unbeaten as India paid dearly for the lack of partnerships to eventually succumb to a mere 201 in their first innings.
Player of the day
The wicket at the PCA stadium was expected to assist spin bowling, but no one looked more convincing than South Africa's part-time spinner Dean Elgar on the first day. The 28-year-old made full use of the slow wicket to strike consistently as the Proteas managed to pull the rug under India's feet in the first innings.
Elgar was introduced ahead of South Africa's premier spinner Imran Tahir in the 22nd over. And the left-arm spinner repaid the faith of his skipper by striking on his fourth delivery of the match to get rid of Pujara. After a productive session before lunch, Elgar was brought back into the attack in the 38th over where he tricked Rahane into playing an expansive drive.
With the Indian middle-order struggling, Elgar struck on his very next ball to dismiss Saha for a golden duck. His hat-trick ball, however, was pushed comfortably by Jadeja for a single. In the same over, Elgar created an opportunity again by forcing an outside edge off Vijay who was lucky to reach his half-century with that shot.
His fourth wicket of the day came in the 51st over when Amit Mishra couldn't resist the temptation of attacking the spinner only to spoon a simple catch to mid-on. Though Elgar was not the only South African bowler who preyed on a beleaguered Indian batting line-up, but his consistent strikes undoubtedly got the Saffers ahead in the game.