South Africa opened their Summer test series at Supersport Park in Centurion on Sunday with India dominating the opening day of the first test.
After having won the toss and electing to bat first, India reached 272 for three at stumps with KL Rahul providing the backbone of the Indian innings with an unbeaten 122 which included 17 boundaries and one six.
But with the injury to Anrich Nortje, ruling the speedster out of the series due to a persistent hip injury, the Proteas included debutant Marco Jansen instead of Duanne Olivier.
Jansen, a tall left-arm seamer first identified by Virat Kohli and brought to the Indian Premier League, bowled 17 overs and conceded 61 runs while Olivier, who claimed 28 wickets in four domestic matches, sat on the side lines.
The Proteas missed the raw pace of Nortje, who has always been able to make something happen, and a true like-for-like switch with Olivier seemed the only logical choice, and South Africa seemed to miss this trick as India dominated on the opening morning.
Rahul and Mayank Agarwal (60) took their side to lunch on the first day having scored 83 rather untroubled runs from 28 overs.
Kagiso Rabada (20-5-51-0) and Lungi Ngidi (17-4-45-3) did not look to trouble the openers on a pitch that had a tinge of grass in the morning session.
But it was Ngidi who made the breakthrough in the middle session, claiming the wickets of Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara (0) with successive balls. Ngidi broke the opening stand of 117 when he had Agarwal trapped in front before having Pujara popping the ball to Keegan Petersen at short leg the very next ball.
Kohli (35), who stroked four boundaries in 94 deliveries, was eventually out, caught by Wiaan Mulder at first slip to see India on 199 for three but Ajinkya Rahane (40 not out) and Rahul took their side to the close with an unbeaten stand of 73 to hand control of the first test to the visiting side.
Who knows if having Olivier in the side would have made a difference but Rabada, who bowled seven no-balls, and Nigidi, did not offer much in the first session and certainly Jansen did not inspire in his first test outing.
Mulder (0-49) offered some swing but was unable to put the Indian top-order under pressure as the Indians were able to leave well alone with some wide bowling. As expected, Keshav Maharaj (0-58) registered some turn but had no real impact on the first day.
The Proteas bowlers lacked any real bite and were rather predictable with no real aggression on offer.
Olivier would have offered some real aggression and pace and the selectors (perhaps getting instructions from Kohli) went with Jansen.
If the Proteas have any real chance of turning this test around, they are going to need some serious focus and aggression on day two and cannot let India rule the roost. If India score 400+ in their first innings, I can see only two outcomes and those do not include a Proteas victory.
India have only won three tests on South African soil and have never triumphed at Supersport Park – but the way the Proteas bowled on day one, this trend could change come Thursday afternoon.