However, two run-outs and a wicket by Ashwin within 13 balls saw South Africa slump from 246/3 to 251/6 as India sought to wrest control of the match while somewhat masking a couple of questionable selections in the playing XI. Pandya at mid-wicket was again in the thick of things as he flicked the ball back to Parthiv Patel behind the stumps to whip off the bails.
India made three changes to its lineup for Centurion after falling behind in the series against its closest challenger at the top of the test rankings.
With only de Villiers offering a fightback, South Africa's lower order did not trouble India.
"I thought we showed good fight, winning the toss and batting first, especially after how last week played out". Though the visiting bowlers thrived on the lively pitch, the technique and approach of the batsmen was questioned as they failed to chase down a target of 208.
India used a review for a caught-behind appeal when Ashwin turned one delivery sharply past Elgar's forward prod, but replays showed there was no thin edge.
South Africa will depend upon Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis to score the bulk of runs. It took a referral for the verdict to come, and when it did the Indian team was jubilant.
Contrary to expectations, there was no assistance for the fast bowlers and Ashwin carried the bowling attack, taking two for 53 in an unchanged 17-over first spell before coming back to bowl another lengthy spell.
Seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya, alongwith lone spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bundled out the hosts for 130 in the second innings at Newlands. Having selected a team based on "current form" for the last Test, India proceeded to drop their best bowler and the man who faced the most balls, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, for the second Test.
He said, 'If they had been patient in Cape Town, India would have scored the bulk of their runs between 50-80 overs. Their batsmen can have no excuse here other than scoreboard pressure. He admitted that there would be some discussion about India's opening batting combination, which suggests that Shikhar Dhawan's place could be in doubt after two poor dismissals against short-pitched deliveries last week.
That piece of good fortune spurred the home side on and they managed another 36 runs in the next seven overs up to the lunch break, the shackles seemingly broken. In the first hour of the Test, India were reduced to asking Pandya to hide the ball well outside off, which he did as ordered. Trying a late cut against Ashwin, he was caught behind with the ball hitting the pad to change direction and end up in Patel's gloves.
Ashwin doesn't have great statistics in South Africa, England and Australia, but he has rarely been handed out conditions that make him a factor. Only 20 leg-side runs were conceded by the quicks in the final session; it is no surprise Shami and Bumrah didn't have to bowl much in this session.