PORT ELIZABETH – Paceman Morne Morkel swept through Zimbabwe’s top order to leave them floundering on 30 for four at the close in reply to South Africa’s 309 for nine declared on the opening day of the inaugural day-night test on Tuesday.
Morkel removed Zimbabwe’s most experienced batsman Hamilton Masakadza with the first ball of their innings and Chamu Chibhabha and Brendan Taylor were also dismissed as the visitors made a tentative start under lights.
Craig Ervine was also out to Vernon Philander, leaving debutant Ryan Burl (15) and nightwatchman Kyle Jarvis to see out the day.
Aiden Markram scored 125 and AB de Villiers chipped in with a half-century as South Africa opted to bat in the first-ever four-day test and looked to be on course for a big score.
But after amassing 251 runs for the loss of four wickets, the hosts lost five wickets in adding only an additional 58 runs after the dinner break before deciding to test Zimbabwe with the pink ball in their first test under lights.
Masakadza was trapped lbw and Morkel had Chibhabha caught at second slip by Temba Bavuma and Taylor taken behind without scoring.
Zimbabwe will start the second day 279 runs behind, seeking to avoid being asked to follow on.
The 23-year-old Markram confirmed his potential with a second ton in his third test as he led from the top of the innings, featuring in a 72-run opening stand with Dean Elgar (31).
De Villiers got much more work than he would have expected on his return to the test arena after a hiatus of almost two years after taking time off from the first class game.
He was named captain just hours before the start when Faf du Plessis pulled out with flu before scoring a quick fire 53 off 65 balls – his 40th test fifty.
He then had to take up the gloves after regular wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock pulled his hamstring while batting and did not come out for the Zimbabwe innings.