Considering the number of times teams have gotten all-out well before a day's play has been completed, the fact that India lost just seven wickets in a day was a rather commendable achieved. That analysis would not prove totally true though. The fact is that the Feroz Shah Kotla surface is firmer compared to the previous pitches on offer. Also, South Africa are not playing a full-strength squad. Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are out injured, and Imran Tahir wasn't at his best. In that sense, India should be a bit disappointed that they did not do better than 231 for 7. But, it can be said that the match was well-balanced when bad light stopped play.
India would have been in an even more troublesome position had it not been for Ajinkya Rahane, who held the innings together with his unbeaten 89, in the process reaching his maiden half-century on Indian soil in his seventh attempt, having failed rather surprisingly on all previous six occasions. Rahane featured in a 70-run stand with skipper Virat Kohli, easily the most impressive of the innings, after India lost quick wickets. Towards the end of the day, aided by a crucial cameo by Ravindra Jadeja and good support from Ravinchandran Ashwin, Rahane made sure that India did not collapse.
Things were extremely tough for the Indian batsmen earlier in the day after Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first. Murali Vijay who, until now, had been the most technically sound batsman for India in the series, looked completely out of sync. He struggled his way to 12 before falling having faced 59 balls, without having hit a four or a six. Vijay had survived even after he edged Kyle Abbott, but the bowler had overstepped. Dane Peidt eventually had him caught at slip, with one that drifted away without spinning. Conditions remained tough for India, but Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara took India to lunch without further trouble.
It was in the post-lunch session that Peidt broke the back of India. He first sent back Dhawan, who once again fell in the 30s. Dhawan failed to read one that slid with the arm. He played for the turn when there was none, the ball beating the inside edge, and trapping him lbw. Abbott then sent back Pujara, taking his off stump, with one that angled in and got a little inside edge. Rahane and Kohli however batted positively after that, and helped India recover to an extent. Both looked in excellent touch until an unlucky dismissal sent Kohli back. He slog swept Peidt, but the ball hit short leg and popped up, only for Dane Vilas to take a diving catch.
India could have crumbled from there, and did briefly as a couple of poor shots were played. But, Rahane was in a definite mood to make amends for his recent poor scores. He displayed assured footwork, something which had been missing in his earlier knocks, and was positive as well. Rahane slog swept and pulled Peidt for a six and a four to complete his fifty. India could have done with better shot selection from Rohit Sharma though. The Mumbai bat, after being dropped by slips, tried to slog Piedt out of the ground, but only found the fielder in the deep. And, when Wriddhiman Saha was cleaned up by Abbott, bowled off the inside edge, India went to tea at 139 for 6. Rahane though found enough support in the final session to aid an Indian rescue act.
-- By A Cricket Correspondent