CAPE TOWN – AB de Villiers struck a stunning half-century on the first morning of the first Test against India on Friday to rescue South Africa from a perilous position at Newlands.
The Proteas managed to go into lunch at 107/3 off 26 overs after reeling at 12/3 at one stage.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar immediately made Proteas captain Faf du Plessis question his decision to bat first at Newlands when he removed opener Dean Elgar with the third ball of the innings.
Bhuvneshwar exploited the green conditions underfoot by getting the ball to seam across Elgar.
South Africa’s highest run-scorer of 2017 could only follow the ball through to wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha to silence a packed Newlands.
New batsman Hashim Amla was also tested with the remaining three balls from Bhuvneshwar, but survived the rest of the over.
Bhuvneshwar, though, gained further success when he trapped Aiden Markram (5) lbw in his second over.
The Proteas were reeling at 7/2 in the third over when De Villiers walked to the crease.
The Indian new-ball bowler reaped further success when Amla (5) followed the openers, when he too was caught behind off Bhuvneshwar.
That's the end of the 1st session of this 1st #SunfoilTest of the #FreedomSeries. A good recovery by SA to reach the break on 107/3. @ABdeVilliers17 59, @faf1307 37 #ProteaFire #SAvIND pic.twitter.com/ITApW0sG67
De Villiers looked a class apart from the other batsmen as he played a counter-attacking innings of the highest calibre.
While South Africa’s top three succumbed to Bhuvneshwar, the former Test skipper took the attack to the right-arm seamer by smashing him for four consecutive boundaries.
De Villiers, though, needed a partner to stick with him and found it in Du Plessis. The Proteas captain was content to play the anchor role, and also contributed a solid 37 not out to the unbeaten 97-run partnership.
Earlier, South Africa went with the attacking selection of four seamers. This meant that there was a place for Dale Steyn, who makes his much-anticipated comeback to Test cricket after a year-long absence due to a shoulder injury.
Batsman Temba Bavuma was the unfortunate casualty, with all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo making way for the return of Du Plessis.
India also granted a Test debut to Jaspit Bumrah at the expense of Ishant Sharma.