AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers plays a shot against India in the first Test in Cape Town on Friday (January 5).Reuters

South Africa's superstar batsman AB de Villiers was praised for his crucial half century against India on the first day of the opening Test at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday (January 5).

The hosts were in deep trouble at 12/3 as paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar destroyed the Proteas top order. This was after home team's captain Faf du Plessis had won the toss and opted to bat first.

With the pitch offering assistance to bowlers, Bhuvneshwar made the most of the conditions as he sent back opener Dean Elgar for a duck on the third ball of the match. He added scalps of Aiden Markram (5) and Hashim Amla (3).

South Africa were reeling at 12/3 in 4.5 overs when De Villiers decided to counter attack Bhuvneshwar. He plundered 17 off the Indian right-armer in the 9th over of the innings.

De Villiers hit Bhuvneshwar for four boundaries and took a single. Before that over, Bhuvneshwar's figures read 4-1-7-3 and that changed to 5-1-24-3 due to the "genius" of the Proteas' number four batsman.

After the end of day's play, South Africa's batting coach Dale Benkenstein praised De Villiers for that attack on Bhuvneshwar and said that over "changed the game".

"I just think the class and genius of AB de Villiers and the tenacity of the captain (Du Plessis) ... that partnership and even just one over changed the game," Benkenstein said.

"He (De Villiers) made the bowlers have to worry about their lengths and that partnership of 100 runs got us back in the game and belief back in the changeroom," he added.

Bhuvneshwar, who finished with 4/87, too agreed that De Villiers took the game away from India. "When it comes to AB de Villiers, he is the best in the world and you have to be at your best to bowl to him. He was counter-attacking us and took the game from us," the bowler said after the day's play.

De Villiers struck an 84-ball 65 with 11 fours while Du Plessis hit 62 from 104 (12x4) as South Africa recovered from early blows to post 286 all out in 73.1 overs. The duo added 114 runs for the fourth wicket.

In reply, India were reduced to 28/3 at stumps. Murali Vijay (1), Shikhar Dhawan (16) and skipper Virat Kohli (5) were the batsmen dismissed. Cheteshwar Pujara (5) and Rohit Sharma (0) will resume batting today on the second day.