India's opening bowlers took three wickets before lunch Tuesday to have South Africa struggling at 67-3 on day one of the second of three tests.
Zaheer Khan took 2-5 off seven overs.
South African captain Graeme Smith won the toss and elected to bat at the Kingsmead Stadium as the Proteas attempted to rally after losing the first test by 121 runs.
Jacques Kallis missed the match with a strained lower back and it was important that South Africa's top order scored well. However, Smith mistimed a pull in the third over off Khan to be caught for five by Sachin Tendulkar running back from slip.
Coming in at No. 3, Hashim Amla was trapped leg before wicket by Kahn for one. A.B. de Villiers _ promoted up the order ahead of Herschelle Gibbs to open _ was caught by Tendulkar for nine while attempting a drive off Sree Sreesanth, who had 1-33.
Gibbs dug in and reached 26 not out by lunch, including six fours. Ashwell Prince was with him on 17.