"It was a reality check in terms of not being able to win a Test match for the country on day five when all things were actually set up for a spinner", Ashwin said after bowling 30 overs for under three an over and three wickets to go with it. Thereafter captain Faf du Plessis (24) and Keshav Maharaj (10) closed out the day without further damage.
South Africa were 182 for two wickets at tea after winning the toss and batting on an easy-paced pitch.
The main question ahead of the match will be the inclusion of Shikhar Dhawan, who could be replaced by Ajinkya Rahane for the Test match.
Ashwin troubled the left-handed Elgar in particular and had a close call for caught behind turned down shortly before lunch.
But an unflustered Markram joined hands with Amla and the pair continued to control the Indian bowlers. M Vijay misjudged a catch at fine leg, Parthiv Patel dropped Amla, and there was more than the odd occasion of infielders putting in hopeless dives to avoid long chases. He was in a punishing mood but with a sensible approach. The conditions demanding high discipline, but the Indian pacers failed to put three balls in the good areas on a consistent basis, encouraging the cautious batsmen to open up. Tall, elegantly lazy, authoritative, equally balance both front and back-foot, Markram played shots all round the park. "It is nice to get the start we did get, and for Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers to prolong the partnership", he said.
It was not all gloom and doom in the first Test as visitors had South Africa in trouble for the most part of the match.
Had Amla and du Plessis not attempted a suicidal single, the day could have still belonged to South Africa, but there was hesitation in the calling when Amla had tapped Pandya on the legside, and the fleet-footed and sure-armed Pandya swooped in to get the ball and hit the stumps to leave Amla a yard short. The hosts went into the Newlands Test with their strongest quartet of seamers - Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada. In the way, he saw an intercepting Hardik Pandya who dived low to field the ball.
Ashwin became the only Indian spinner to bowl 31 overs on the first day of a Test outside Asia since 2000.
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