Morkel strikes as India reaches 149-6 at tea in Nagpur test

NAGPUR, India (AP) Offspinner Simon Harmer and pace bowler Morne Morkel shared seven wickets as South Africa bowled India out for 215 on the first day Wednesday of the third test.

Harmer grabbed 4-78 and Morkel took 3-35 as India struggled after electing to bat on a pitch already helping spin bowling.

Given nine overs to bat before stumps, South Africa tasted what India had to endure, and was 11-2, both wickets taken by spinners.

The prospect of another low-scoring game was palpable, with India in charge at 1-0 up in the four-test series.

Opener Murali Vijay top-scored for India with 40, and after an off-color display by other specialist batsmen, it took a 48-run stand for the seventh wicket between Ravindra Jadeja (34) and Wriddhiman Saha (32) to ensure India got past 200.

The pitch not only offered turn to spinners but also gave the pace bowlers confidence with some odd bounce, going with the trend of underprepared pitches in this series.

Morkel was on target from early on, and his two wickets in the second session pegged back India, which ended the first session at 85-2 after a 50-run opening stand between Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan (12).

Morkel bowled Ajinkya Rahane for 13 through a wide gap between bat and pad, and had captain Virat Kohli caught behind on 22 with a lovely away delivery in an impressive afternoon spell in which he took 2-8 in four overs. Their departures left India on 116-5.

A well-set Vijay was earlier trapped by Morkel after he'd struck three fours and a six. His wicket was vital, as he had 150 runs from his three previous innings in the low-scoring series.

The Indian batsmen were not afraid to charge Harmer, but he also thwarted them by varying the trajectory of the ball.

Harmer's first wicket was Cheteshwar Pujara lbw on 21 after lunch, and Rohit Sharma was a bat-pad catch at short leg for his second wicket of the session. Harmer took two more in the last session: Saha was caught at short mid-wicket by JP Duminy, who lunged to his left to pull off a fine catch, and No. 10 batsman Amit Mishra was last out for 3.

''It was a little bit slow early on and it was difficult to adjust to the pace,'' Harmer said. ''If one bowled slow, the batsman could adjust and play the ball more easily. So I decided to bowl a little faster to hurry the batsmen.''

Harmer said the pitch was much like the one in the opening test at Mohali, where India won by 108 runs.

''The wicket has not been prepared to last five days. It's challenging conditions but not something unexpected,'' Harmer said.

Kagiso Rabada, the 20-year-old paceman in his third test, earned his second wicket when he bowled Jadeja to break up the combination with Saha.

But India batting coach Sanjay Bangar felt the batsmen applied themselves well, and the Saha-Jadeja stand could prove decisive.

''That was a substantial contribution, and the partnership was really, really crucial for us to get past 200,'' Bangar said. ''Saha has loads of runs in first-class cricket, and is someone who is developing really well. He is a utility player, someone who puts a price tag on his wicket.''

India went into the match with three spinners; Amit Mishra, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Jadeja.

India also beefed up its batting with Rohit Sharma while dropping allrounder Stuart Binny and pace bowler Varun Aaron. Ishant Sharma was the lone pace bowler in the lineup.

South Africa brought in Harmer to replace pace bowler Kyle Abbott. Pace bowler Dale Steyn did not recover in time from a groin strain, and was missing a second consecutive test.

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