CAPE TOWN, Jan 2 (IANS): A resolute Jacques Kallis remained unbeaten on 81, guiding South Africa to 232 for four on the rain-interuppted first day of the final and series decider cricket Test at Newlands here Sunday.
Kallis was batting at a watchful 81 while giving him company was Ashwell Prince (28) at stumps after an absorbing day which began under dark and overcast conditions and saw two rain-interruptions, but ended with bright sunshine in the last hour. Sixteen overs were bowled short for the day.
The veteran South African batsmen stood up to some probing spells from Indian fast bowlers on a green and bouncy track that had enough ammunitaion for quicks.
First Hashim Amla with an counter-attacking 59 and then Kallis kept the full-house engaged and made sure that South Africa finish the first day with an edge over India.
Under an overcast sky, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's luck with the coin finally favoured and he didn't hesitate to put South Africa in.
The South African batsmen, however, managed well to see off the moving deliveries and then took their chances with the fuller deliveries, not allowing the Indian bowlers to settle down to a consistent line.
Alviro Petersen struck S. Sreesanth for two fours in the second over before the seamer sorted out his length and bowled some probing deliveries.
India's pace spearhead Zaheer Khan troubled the batsmen, extracting good movement from the surface.
Zaheer removed South African captain Graeme Smith, trapping him lbw in the seventh over. After two more overs play had to be suspended to a drizzle and bad light. With no play possible, an early lunch was taken with South Africa 21 for one.
After the resumption of play, Hashim Amla struck a brisk half-century but India took two wickets in the second session to reduce the hosts to 125 for three.
Ishant Sharma, who was getting the ball to dart around sharply, got rid of Petersen with a beautiful fuller-length delivery, inviting the batsman to drive and getting him to edge to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Amla, who has been in tremendous form against India this season, then changed gears and was the dominant partner in the 72-run stand with Kallis.
Amla struck nine fours and one six in his 80-ball knock.
Sreesanth, who was at the receiving end of Amla's aggression, brought India back, dismissing Amla when the latter mistimed a pull and Cheteshwar Pujara at square-leg took the catch.
With South Africa 106/3, Kallis and AB de Villiers added 58 runs before Sreesanth dismissed the latter, caught behind.
Kallis, who hit six fours in 169 balls, survived a torrid spell from Ishant, who bowled with rhythm and got the ball to bounce and move in sharply.
But Kallis fended off well and then added an unbeaten 68 runs with Prince, who also was troubled by the Indian pace trio and Harbhajan Singh but hung on for the rest of the extended last session that could well make a difference to the Test.
South Africa: first innings
Alviro Petersen c Dhoni b Sharma 21
Graeme Smith lbw b Khan 6
Hashim Amla c Pujara b Sreesanth 59
Jacques Kallis batting 81
AB de Villiers c Dhoni b Sreesanth 26
Ashwell Prince batting 28
Extras (b 1, lb 5, nb 5) 11
Total (for four wickets in 74 overs) 232
Fall of wickets 1-17 (Smith, 6.3 overs), 2-34 (Petersen, 13.3), 3-106 (Amla, 28.3), 4-164 (de Villiers, 50.6)
Zaheer Khan 19 4 62 1
S. Sreesanth 21 0 70 2
Ishant Sharma 16 2 39 1
Harbhajan Singh 18 1 55 0