Silver lining: Shaun Pollock bowled an immaculate line and was the only one to consistently trouble the Indians © Getty Images
Mickey Arthur, South Africa's coach, expressed his disappointment at the Newlands pitch, but insisted that his side would go all out for the win that will clinch the series. He commended his bowlers for having kept the Indian scoring rate under control, and hoped that a couple of breakthroughs with the new ball on the second morning could swing the game his team's way.
"We are disappointed with the wicket," he said, not bothering to dress up his despair in diplomatic terms. "It certainly isn't what we were looking for. But you've got to play on whatever track you get."
The new-ball bowlers didn't make the Indian openers play enough, but Arthur said that he was satisfied with the effort put in, adding that the short-pitched tactics had been worthwhile given the manner in which India capitulated at Kingsmead.
"We bowled pretty decently as a unit," he said. "India haven't got away with the game. We still have the new ball and if we can strike early blows tomorrow morning, we'll be really happy.
"I don't think the Indian batting had much confidence after Durban. We had to try and expose the chinks with the short ball. The follow-up delivery was always the important one."
Even if the second new ball, now 10 overs old, does the trick, the onus will be on South Africa's batsmen to pile up a formidable total to stay in the game. "We realise that our first innings with the bat is really going to be crucial," said Arthur, though his reading of the pitch seemed a little bizarre.
"Against New Zealand, it was a similar pitch," he said, perhaps forgetting that that Test had been played in late April, with winter imminent. "It turned on day one and then went on to become a good track. We are obviously hoping that's the case."
Though Paul Harris came through well on his debut, troubling most batsmen during the course of a tidy 24 overs, the sharp turn out of the rough might have sent a few shudders down South African spines. "We were just telling him after play, that we didn't expect him to bowl the most number of overs," said Arthur. "Especially not on the opening day of a Test in South Africa."
Arthur praised Wasim Jaffer's innings and said that India's decision to open with Dinesh Karthik hadn't caught his team cold. "We saw him in the nets in Durban, and were pretty sure that he might open here," he said. As for what lay ahead, Arthur remained cautiously optimistic.
"If we can restrict them to less than 380, we'll be very happy," he said. "We're still looking for a win and will try and go as far as possible to achieve that. Our mindset is to win. We won't hang on for a draw."
If the odd puff of dust late this evening was any indication, they might have to do just that against Anil Kumble.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo