JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's top order batsmen collapsed against India's fast bowlers on a dramatic second day of the first Test at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Thursday.
South Africa were 6-213 at the close, 67 runs behind India's 280 all out on a day when 11 wickets fell for 228 runs - ten of them in two clusters of five wickets for 16 runs.
Ishant Sharma led an impressive three-pronged Indian pace attack, taking three for 64 but Vernon Philander and Faf du Plessis added an unbeaten 67 for the seventh wicket to leave the match between the world's two top-ranked Test sides evenly poised.
Sharma sparked the South African collapse in which five wickets fell in 38 balls.
The hosts had progressed to 1-130 when Hashim Amla padded up to a ball which swung back in and clipped the top of his off stump.
Amla said the pitch was offering "quite a lot" to seam bowlers but said several of the dismissals could not be blamed on the conditions.
"I could have used my bat," he quipped about his own downfall.
It was the second collapse of the day, India losing five for 25 after resuming at 5-255 in heavily overcast conditions.
"We wanted to play as long as possible," said Ajinkya Rahane (47), "but they bowled really well. Our bowlers also bowled well, so we are happy with our team performance."
Philander finished with four for 61 after taking three for six in six overs on Thursday and Morkel took three for 34 in 23 overs.
Rahane said he felt India were still in a position to control the game. "They are still 67 runs behind, so we just need to bowl in the right areas tomorrow morning and then bat well in the second innings. I think 275-plus will be a crucial score for them to chase."
Amla agreed that 275 would be a challenging target but said South Africa had fought their way out of some difficult conditions in their ascent to the number one ranking.
"When you have a collapse like this, fortunately there is another innings where we hope to rectify it. Everyone knows the recover quality of the batters we have, so I don't think there are too many worries in the team."