Durban, Dec 26: India opening batsman Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara struck half centuries to grind the South African bowlers on the first day of the Boxing Day Test at the Kingsmead here Thursday.
Vijay was batting on 76 and Pujara on 55 as India reached 163 for one at tea. India scored 87 runs in the second session as Vijay and Pujara scored easily on a track that offered little lateral movement to the South African pacers.
India lost opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan (29) early in the morning session, but from then on Vijay and Pujara, a centurion in Johannesburg, put India on top with their unfinished 122-run stand for the second wicket
Both the teams came into this match high on confidence after the first Test at the New Wanderers in Johannesburg ended in an exciting draw on Sunday.
The only wicket to fall in the morning session was that of Dhawan, who was forced to play a full delivery by Morne Morkel and edged to Robin Petersen at third slip.
It was a tough session for the South African pacers as they failed to get any sideways movement with the new ball on a hot day. They pitched the ball up, but Dhawan and Vijay managed to punch them down the ground for fours.
It was a lapse in concentration that cost Dhawan his wicket. He had made a quickfire 28 off 36 balls before but lost his concentration after the drinks break and nicked the first ball to the slip cordon.
At the other end, Vijay adopted a patient approach after he was beaten several times and was also struck on the box and on the arm. But after the first session, Vijay scored freely while Pujara held up one end of the innings.
Vijay got to his half-century with a four off Kallis by chopping a wide ball behind backward point. Pujara also got to hs fifty in a similar fashion by driving Petersen for a four through deep extra cover.
Morkel, who was doubtful for the match after twisting his ankle in the first Test, remained the most impressive pacer as he bowled full steam and hit the deck hard as there was no lateral movement. He was finally rewarded with the wicket of Dhawan.
Earlier, India won the toss and opted to bat against South Africa. India replaced off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja while South Africa brought in left arm spinner Robin Peterson for leggie Imran Tahir. South African legend Jacques Kallis will retire from Test cricket after this match.