The first two sessions belonged to South Africa, but India took two wickets before the close of play to leave the first Test evenly balanced after day one in Mohali.
The Proteas will resume day two on 28-2 after a superb bowling performance by the visitors restricted India to 201. Dean Elgar (13) and Hashim Amla (9) will continue on Friday.
There was some turn on the first day and India made their intentions clear by opening the bowling with R Ashwin. It worked, trapping Stiaan van Zyl lbw for five, the batsman failing to offer a shot as the ball hit him on the back leg for a plumb dismissal.
When Faf du Plessis was bowled by Jadeja for a duck shortly afterwards, again opting to leave a delivery which nipped back in, India had their tails up.
South Africa would have been mindful when coming out to bat that there is plenty in the wicket to exploit if you put the ball in the right areas. Virat Kohli used his spinners to attack, placing up to four close fielders around the batsmen.
Leaving deliveries successfully on this pitch will not be easy and it will take a special batting performance from the Proteas to build a significant first innings lead.
Dean Elgar was South Africa’s unlikely hero with the ball, his career-best figures of 4-22 helping to restrict India to what now seems a decent 201. It was a collective effort by the bowling unit, Kagiso Rabada showing good signs on his Test debut although he did concede a few no-balls, one of which ruled out an lbw decision against Ashwin.
Elgar found himself on a hat-trick at one stage, having removed Ajinkya Rahane (15) and Saha (0) by having both caught at first slip by Hashim Amla.
Elgar’s success has already questioned the need for two specialist spinners in the XI, so the pressure was on Harmer and Imran Tahir to make an impact.
Vernon Philander took 2-38 in 15 overs and Harmer, while keeping it tight, claiming only one wicket. Imran Tahir wrapped up the tail with two deliveries that deceived the batsmen by turning in sharply from outside off-stump.
South Africa started their innings cautiously, fully aware of the challenge at hand. They will be minded to bat as long as possible on day two and hopefully get a small lead, knowing they will have to bat last on this surface.