Ashwell Prince again stood firm for South Africa as India’s bowlers took control on the first day of the second Test at Kingsmead on Tuesday.
Prince made 98 not out as South Africa struggled to 257 for eight at the close.
The left-handed Prince shared stands of 94 with Herschelle Gibbs (63) and 100 with Mark Boucher (53) after South Africa lost their first three wickets for 28.
Prince, out for 97 in a losing cause in the first Test in Johannesburg, was in sight of his fifth Test century when three wickets fell for one run shortly before bad light ended play with 17 overs remaining to be bowled. Prince had an escape on 41 when he edged VRV Singh low to Sachin Tendulkar at first slip. Tendulkar went off the field for treatment on a finger injury on his right hand and did not return after tea.
Indian opening bowlers Zaheer Khan and Shanthakumaran Sreesanth took the first five wickets before Singh and leg-spinner Anil Kumble struck late in the day. Khan took two for 61 and Sreesanth three for 74, while Kumble claimed two for 48.
South Africa, weakened by the absence of star batsman Jacques Kallis because of a back injury, were in deep trouble when Prince went to the crease to join Gibbs.
Captain Graeme Smith won the toss but continued a dismal run of form when he was out for five to start a collapse similar to that suffered by the host nation in both innings when they were beaten by 123 runs in Johannesburg in the first match of a three-Test series.
Smith top-edged a pull against Khan, the ball went high in the air and Tendulkar ran back about 15m from first slip to take the catch. Hashim Amla played around his pad and was leg before to be Khan’s second victim before AB de Villiers, moved up the batting order to partner Smith, was caught at first slip by Tendulkar when he edged an attempted drive against an out-swinger from Sreesanth.
Sreesanth, man of the match in the first Test, bowled a first poor spell, but struck with the third delivery of his second spell when he switched ends to replace Khan at the northern Umgeni end of the ground immediately after the drinks break.
Gibbs, who made a “pair” in the first Test, hit 13 fours in his 88-ball innings and played some fluent strokes interspersed with some loose ones. Just when it seemed he was getting on top he top-edged a pull against Sreesanth and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni dived to his right to hold a good catch.
Gibbs, who had been expected to bat at number six, replaced Kallis at number four in the order. A team spokesman said Kallis woke with a sharp pain Sunday and had difficulty moving. Kallis made centuries in each of the previous four Tests at Kingsmead. His absence further weakened a vulnerable South African top order.
Boucher made his 53 off 91 balls before being bowled by a full length delivery from Sreesanth.
Prince seemed to have played South Africa into a position of near-parity before Shaun Pollock slashed Singh to backward point at the start of a burst of three wickets in nine balls.
Andrew Hall, who replaced Kallis, was deceived by a Kumble googly and was out lbw and Andre Nel missed a ball which hurried through to bowl him. New cap Morne Morkel faced one ball before the batsmen were offered the light. Prince faced only one ball, advancing to 97 for 98, while wickets fell at the other end. Morkel gained his first cap when fellow fast bowler Dale Steyn failed a fitness test on a strained thigh. Morkel is the younger brother of Albie Morkel, who has played in one-day and Twenty20 internationals for South Africa.
India named an unchanged team, deciding that fast bowler Munaf Patel was not fully ready to come back into the side after an ankle injury despite bowling well in a two-day practice match.
SOUTH AFRICA (first innings)
G. Smith c Tendulkar b Zaheer Khan 5
A. de Villiers c Tendulkar b Sreesanth 9
H. Amla lbw b Zaheer Khan 1
H. Gibbs c Dhoni b Sreesanth 63
A. Prince not out 98
M. Boucher b Sreesanth 53
S. Pollock c Sehwag b Singh 11
A. Hall lbw b Kumble 0
A. Nel b Kumble 0
M. Morkel not out 0
EXTRAS (LB-3, NB-13, W-1) 17
TOTAL (8 wkts, 73 overs) 257
===========================================FALLS: 1-8, 2-13, 3-28, 4-122, 5-222, 6-256, 7-257, 8-257.
BOWLING: Zaheer Khan 18-6-61-2 (3nb, 1w), Sreesanth 17-3-74-3 (3nb), Singh 13-1-60-1 (3nb), Kumble 22-1-48-2 (3nb), Ganguly 3-1-11-0 (2nb).
TO BAT: M Ntini.
INDIA: R Dravid, V Sehwag, W Jaffer, S Tendulkar, V Laxman, S Ganguly, M Dhoni, A Kumble, Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth, V Singh.
UMPIRES: M Benson (ENG), Asad Rauf (PAK)
TV UMPIRE: I Howell (RSA)
MATCH REFEREE: R Mahanama (SRI)
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2006