South Africa v India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 1st day January 2, 2011

Dhoni masters the toss, Smith hides from Zaheer

ESPNcricinfo brings you the plays of the first day of the third Test between South Africa and India at Newlands

The toss
After losing 13 of his last 14 tosses, it was becoming more important for MS Dhoni to practice making the right calls at the toss, than to fine-tune his batting. Indian fans had begun to ask for the captain to send out a representative in his place as he was going through such a lean run of form with the toss. Then, as though by a miracle, he called correctly under cloudy skies. Having been inserted in similar conditions in the first two Tests, he had no second thoughts about asking South Africa to bat.

The fear factor
Graeme Smith showed just how nervous facing Zaheer Khan made him when he opted not to take first strike and let Alviro Petersen see off his first two overs. When Smith faced Zaheer, in his third over, he could hardly wait to get off strike. Off the fourth delivery of the over, Smith worked the ball through midwicket and ran one, with a second run comfortably on offer. Harbhajan Singh, who saw Smith waiting at the non-strikers end ambled to the ball, backpedalled a little, stood around and offered the extra run. Smith didn't budge, leaving Petersen to face the last two balls of that over.

The act of caution
Jacques Kallis is not one to see if lightning can strike twice. When Hashim Amla drove a delivery straight back to Zaheer Khan at the Wynberg End, Kallis rushed back to his crease anxiously, fearing a repeat of his Durban dilemma. Then, Kallis was run out at the non-strikers end by Ishant Sharma in the first innings at Kingsmead and his extra backing up today was a sign that he has learnt his lesson.

The glee
Sreesanth did not have much to celebrate in his first nine overs, having gone for 47 runs. Hashim Amla had taken a particular liking to him in the post-lunch session, having hit him for two glorious cover drives and an emphatic pull shot for six. His fourth boundary off Sreesanth was an outside edge that evaded VVS Laxman at second slip and the break-dancer's blood was starting to boil. Two balls later, it was all over. Amla top-edged a bouncer and was caught at deep midwicket, an act that unleashed Sree's glee. He charged around like an unrestrained border collie and it was up to Hrabhajan to rein him in before he ran right out of the ground.

The light
It got too dark to play in the morning and afternoon sessions but Cape Town was saving the best for last. The Mother City revealed her best side as early evening approached. The clouds climbed their way up Table Mountain with blue skies finally unveiled. Bright sunshine soaked the ground and a day that could have been truncated by poor overhead conditions, and had eight minutes short of two hours lost to the elements, ended up having 74 overs of play. There are some benefits to the city technically being in the wrong time zone, it seems.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent