That allowed the India bowlers to go under the radar a little, taking the pressure off the likes of Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, and with it allowing them to go about their business quietly and professionally.
Ishant, the unimaginable enigma, the man that elicits a groan from the fans when MS Dhoni brings him on, was the star of the day, starting the South Africa wicket-train in immaculate fashion.
The result of Ishant, Shami and Zaheer deciding to take the match, tailing off in South Africa's favour at one point, by the scruff of the neck, was the opening up the possibility of an incredible victory in the first Test at the Wanderers.
A lot of work remains to be done of course, but after the Indian bowlers picked up five top-order wickets for 16 runs, which dropped South Africa from an ominous 130 for one to 146 for six, it is game-on for the visitors, given not even a sliver of a chance of even competing before the start of the series.
South Africa ended day two, another day of absolutely gripping Test match cricket, on 213 for six with Faf Du Plessis (17, 55b, 1x5) and counter-attacking Vernon Philander (48, 76B, 5X4) batting - the duo putting on a crucial partnership of 67 for the seventh wicket. India were bowled out for 280 in the first session, with the Proteas 67 runs behind at the close of play.
The match turned in India's favour courtesy a brilliant burst from Ishant, the much-maligned, always criticised, how-one-earth-is-he-still-in-the-Indian-team fast bowler.
Ishant (three for 64), who picked up opener Alviro Petersen earlier, and was warned a couple of times for running onto the pitch, first sent Hashim Amla (36, 74b, 6x4) packing, knocking off the right-hander's stumps after a misjudgement from the batsman, and with it ending a 93-run partnership which was slowly taking the game away from the visitors.
The very next ball saw Jacques Kallis rapped on the pads in front of the wicket - a buzzing Ishant handing one of the all-time greats his first ever duck, and a golden one at that, against India.
Fast bowlers always hunt in packs, and seeing one of their members make a deadly move, the others also caught on with Zaheer (one for 72), the ball reverse-swinging to his will, taking the wicket of his very own bunny Graeme Smith (68, 119b, 11x4).
Mohammed Shami picked up two big wickets of JP Duminy and AB De Villiers. BCCI
Mohammed Shami (two for 48), with Ishant tiring and the ball reversing prodigiously, roared in wanting to join in on the fun, landing a brilliant outswinger to left-hander JP Duminy off his first delivery, which induced an outside edge straight to Murali Vijay at first slip.
A couple of balls later, and the dangerous AB De Villiers was caught on the crease with the ball smashing onto his pads slam-bang in front of the wicket.
That put South Africa on 146 for six, leaving Faf Du Plessis and Vernon Philander to do the repair work, which they did quite well taking South Africa ever closer to India's first innings score.
India were quite impressive with the bat on day one, but you always felt, if the Proteas bowling attack get it right, the wicket-floodgates will open up.
That proved to be very much the case in the first session as the resistance, so wonderfully achieved on day one by India, broke half-an-hour into the second day, as South Africa, read Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, found their wicket-taking mojo, bowling India out for 280, with the visitors only managing to add 25 runs for the loss of five wickets on day two.
The bowlers brought their line back from outside off onto the stumps, and it seemed to do the trick, as a ball coming in and a little leaver soon after proved to be the difference. The runs were dried up and the bowling was superlative, the end result being just one thing - the demise of India's first innings.
Skipper MS Dhoni, starting the day on 17, managed just two more runs while eating quite a few more deliveries, before Morkel struck with a beautiful delivery, on the ninth over of the day, that was pitched on a good length and left the batsman just a tad, also taking a sound outside edge along the way.
Rahane lasted only four deliveries more, as Philander (four for 61), so disappointing on day one, induced an outside edge from the right-hander, who will, regardless, be quite encouraged by his dogged innings of 47, 137b, 8x4).
Philander trapped Zaheer Khan in front in the very next delivery, before accounting for Ishant Sharma in his next over, to move onto 99 wickets from a ridiculous 19 Test matches.
Vernon Philander rattled India in the opening session. BCCI
Morkel (three for 34) would not give his teammate an opportunity to get to 100 wickets, however, castling No.11 Mohammed Shami, for a third straight duck of the innings, and with it leaving R Ashwin, who again looked quite good during his brief stay, stranded on 11.
Zaheer Khan and Mohammed Shami caused a flutter here and there in the ten overs before Lunch, but Graeme Smith, who will do his utmost, no doubt, not to get out against Zaheer, and Alviro Petersen held firm to go into the break on 22 for no loss.
India found a glimmer of hope of breaking through the South African batting lineup, when Ishant dismissed Petersen (21, 41b, 4x4) lbw.
However, South Africa maintained their dominance of day two, this time with the bat, as Smith and Amla took their side to Tea beautifully placed on 118 for one from 35 overs.
There were a few edges here and there and had India clung on to their chances the story could have been mighty different - R Ashwin the culprit, dropping Smith off Zaheer Khan early on - but it was not to be and it is South Africa who bossed the first two sessions of day two.
India roared back in the final session, however, leaving the first Test as nicely poised as a model in a photoshoot.
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