Morne Morkel
South Africa's Morne Morkel (2nd R) and AB de Villiers (R) celebrate after Morkel took the wicket of India's captain Virat Kohli (unseen) on the first day of their third test cricket match in Nagpur, India, November 25, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave

NAGPUR, India (Reuters) – Morne Morkel’s inspired fast bowling on a spin-friendly surface reduced India to 149 for six wickets at tea on the first day of the third test against South Africa on Wednesday.

India captain Virat Kohli had no hesitation in opting to bat first after winning the toss at the VCA Stadium with the pitch expected to assist the slow bowlers.

Virat Kohli
India’s captain Virat Kohli plays a shot on the first day of their third test cricket match against South Africa in Nagpur, India, November 25, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave

But three wickets from the lanky paceman eroded most of the advantage the hosts thought they had by batting first.

Ravindra Jadeja (21) and Wriddhiman Saha (nine) added 24 runs in an unbroken stand before the break after South Africa had reduced the hosts to 125-6.

The surface provided prodigious turn for the spinners from the first session of the match, which the touring side, currently the top-ranked test team, need to win to level the four-match series.

Part-time left-arm spinner Dean Elgar broke India’s opening stand by dismissing Shikhar Dhawan (12) after the left-hander had added 50 with Murali Vijay.

Dean Elgar
South Africa’s Dean Elgar (C) is congratulated by his teammates after he took the wicket of India’s Shikhar Dhawan (not pictured) as Murali Vijay (R) watches on the first day of their third test cricket match in Nagpur, India, November 25, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Dhawan advanced down the wicket but could only manage to spoon the ball back to the bowler, who took a smart diving catch.

Vijay (40) looked in control during his knock before he was done in by a Morkel delivery that straightened after pitching to hit the batsman plumb in front of the wicket.

Murali Vijay
India’s Murali Vijay runs after playing a shot on the first day of their third test cricket match against South Africa in Nagpur, India, November 25, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Morkel, leading the South African pace attack in absence of injured team mate and world’s top-ranked test bowler Dale Steyn, beat Kohli (22) several times before inducing an edge from the right-hander which was pouched by wicketkeeper Dane Vilas.

Ajinkya Rahane (13) struggled throughout his stay at the crease and played an expansive drive off Morkel to be clean bowled.

Ajinkya Rahane Morne Morkel
India’s Ajinkya Rahane is bowled by South Africa’s Morne Morkel (unseen) on the first day of their third test cricket match in Nagpur, India, November 25, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Off-spinner Simon Harmer further pegged India back by dismissing Cheteshwar Pujara (21) and Rohit Sharma (two), who was playing his first match in the series.

Both sides went in with an extra spinner for the match with India opting for leg-spinner Amit Mishra and South Africa adding Harmer to their line-up.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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