South Africa tumbled from a position of strength to 213 for six and made India's 280 look a surprisingly solid score as two rapid collapses on a fiery Wanderers pitch left the first Test about even at the close of day two yesterday.
The quick bowlers unsurprisingly dominated on a green, bouncy track in Johannesburg to shape the early part of the short battle between Test cricket's top two teams. Eleven wickets fell and only one half-century was recorded to go with Virat Kohli's impressive century on the first day.
Vernon Philander led South Africa's bowling with four for 61 in the morning as India were kept to 280 after being 255 for five overnight. Morne Morkel was menacing for his three for 34.
"We are in control of the game," India's Ajinkya Rahane said after a seesaw day.
Seizing on significant help from the pitch, the two sets of fast bowlers each had their say in two definitive spells that left batsmen ducking, weaving, playing and missing, and generally struggling.
Facing South Africa's daunting 118 for one at tea, and with Smith and Amla settling in, Sharma's spell early in the final session was an example of India getting it right on unfamiliar green tops. The left-armer finished with three for 64 and Shami had two for 48, with Zaheer Khan also chipping in on his first test appearance in a year with the crucial wicket of Smith.