A magnificent 159 by the ever-reliable Jacques Kallis [ Images ], an equally well-made 115 by Hashim Amla [ Images ], and their unbroken 285-run partnership for the third wicket put South Africa [ Images ] in a commanding position against India [ Images ] on the first day of the opening Test in Nagpur on Saturday.
The duo vindicated captain Graeme Smith's [ Images ] decision to bat first on a wicket that seemed conducive for the same.
At stumps on day one, the visitors had put up 291 for two, recovering brilliantly after the hosts had made early inroads with Zaheer Khan [ Images ] making a double breakthrough (reducing South Africa to six for two).
However, the Indian bowlers failed to maintain the pressure and let the advantage slip.
Harbhajan Singh [ Images ] (21-0-81-0) again failed to impress. The off spinner, whose off-the-field statements make more news than his on-field ones these days, had yet another forgettable day in office, failing to make an impact.
Having lost the toss, it was imperative for India to keep their stranglehold on the game -- after the early wickets -- but they failed at it completely, instead allowing South Africa to wrest back the initiative and consolidate.
Morning session (90 runs, 29 overs, two wickets):
India made early inroads into the South African batting with Zaheer Khan making a double breakthrough, first having Ashwell Prince [ Images ] caught by skipper MS Dhoni [ Images ] and then cleaning up Graeme Smith.
Prince, looking ill at ease throughout his short stay, failed to read a short bouncer from Zaheer and the ball brushed his armguard en route to the keeper's gloves.
The left-hander failed to open his account while the captain managed only six.
After seven overs, South Africa had made a stuttering start at six for two.
Harbhajan was introduced in the 12th over, in place of Ishant Sharma [ Images ], while the latter replaced Zaheer at the other end, only to be replaced again, on this occasion by Amit Mishra [ Images ].
Kallis was fortunate to survive two run-out attempts, Vijay being in the thick of action on both occasions.
The veteran celebrated his good fortune with a couple of boundaries off Mishra and soon stepped on the pedal, being particular severe on Harbhajan.
He soon reached his fifty, off 75 balls. It included six boundaries and a six (off Harbhajan). It was Kallis's 53rd Test half century, his sixth against India.
Along with Amla he managed to build a partnership that put his team on course towards a good first innings total.
At lunch, the visitors, after repairing the early damage to an extent, were 90 for 2 after 29 overs.
South Africa had scored only 21 runs (in 13 overs) in the first hour of play but fared better in the second, scoring 69 off 16 overs.
Earlier, South Africa won the toss and their captain wasted no time in opting to bat first, as the series billed as the greatest ever, featuring the top two teams in Test cricket, got underway .
There were no surprises in the visitor's line-up while the hosts handed Test debuts to S Badrinath and Wriddhiman Saha.
As was speculated the injured VVS Laxman [ Images ] was left out of the Indian starting XI while an injury sustained during the morning practice ruled out any hopes Rohit Sharma [ Images ] had of playing.
Post-lunch session (103 runs, 33 overs, no wickets):
The post-lunch session began on a slow note. It was palpable that the South African batsmen were keen on consolidation. They reached the 100-run mark in exactly 34 overs.
Kallis enlivened the proceedings with a massive six over long-on off Mishra, his second of the innings -- that particular shot also brought up the 100-run partnership (off 172 balls) for the third wicket.
The duo continued playing risk-free cricket. Their styles were contrasting -- Kallis's knock came at a steady pace, while Amla's innings was more of a laboured effort -- but what mattered was the fact that the combination was working to South Africa's advantage.
Kallis reached his 34th Test hundred, his third against India, with a single off Harbhajan (past leg slip).
The 34-year-old moved up to third place in the list for the most Test tons -- alongside Sunil Gavaskar [ Images ] and Brian Lara [ Images ]. Only Sachin Tendulkar [ Images ] (45) and Ricky Ponting [ Images ] (39) have more hundreds in Test cricket.
It was Kallis's third century in the last two months -- the other to coming against England [ Images ]. It was also a successful return on Indian soil for the veteran all-rounder, having scored a memorable 132 in Motera the last occasion South Africa toured India.
Amla didn't take long to reach to his 17th Test fifty, his fourth against India. It took Amla over four hours and 132 balls to reach the milestone.
Nonetheless, the 26-year-old also made a successful return to Indian soil which witnessed him scoring a spectacular 159 at Chennai during his last trip.
The Indian bowlers were rendered ineffective in this session of play. After 62 overs (at tea), the visitors were comfortably plaed at 193 for 2, with Kallis batting on 120 and Amla on 60.
Post-tea session (98 runs, 29 overs, no wickets):
Having dominated the second session, the visitors began the third on a confident note.
Amla hit Zaheer to the boundary twice (in the space of three balls) in the first over after resumption to not only help South Africa pass the 200-run mark but also bring up the double century partnership for the third wicket.
The 26-year-old, having largely played a supporting role in the first two sessions, began the day's final session on an aggressive note. He took 147 balls to score 60 before tea, but needed just 57 more to get the 40 runs required for his hundred.
It was his eighth Test ton and second against India, after that spectacular 159 at Chennai during South Africa's last trip -- a memorable innings which didn't get enough coverage thanks to Virender Sehwag's [ Images ] triple in the same Test.
Kallis surpassed the 150-run mark for the ninth time in his career soon after.
And at close of play the duo, having already accumulated 285 runs for the third wicket, threatened to take the game out of India's hands come day two.