Jasprit Bumrah took an early wicket but India bowled without luck as South Africa reached 100 for three at lunch on day two of the decisive third and final test at Newlands, still 123 runs behind the tourists’ first innings score of 223.
The Indian seamers beat the bat with regularity and when they did find the edge, the ball felt agonisingly short of the slips on numerous occasions.
Keegan Petersen battled hard for his 40 not out in sweltering heat and will resume after the interval with Rassie van der Dussen, who is on 17.
The wicket is providing plenty of seam movement, but does not have the bounce of the Highveld pitches where the first two tests were played, perhaps deceiving the Indian slip fielders, who have stationed themselves too far back from the crease.
South Africa will be relieved to have lost only the two wickets as they resumed on 17-1, especially as the first came in the second ball of the day.
Opener Aiden Markram looked to leave a delivery from Bumrah (2-16), but the ball jagged back and clattered into the stumps as the seamer picked up his second wicket after he also dismissed home captain Dean Elgar late on the first evening.
Nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj was the other batsman out in the opening session as he drove past a straight delivery from Umesh Yadav to give the fast bowler his first wicket.
That came with the score on 45, but Petersen and Van der Dussen weathered a storm to add an unbeaten 55 for the fourth wicket.
The series is level at 1-1 after India won the first test in Pretoria by 113 runs, before South Africa bounced back to claim the second in Johannesburg by seven wickets.