Virat Kohli countered the South African pace attack as he scored his fifth Test century with India ending Day 1 at a formidable 255/5.
India started the Test series rather tentatively with Shikhar Dhawan falling to the short ball. He mistimed a pull to Imran Tahir at fine-leg.
Surprisingly, Hashim Amla dropped Murali Vijay at short-leg providing an excellent opportunity for the opener to get a big score.
However Vijay didn't survive too long as he played away from his body to Morkel and edged to the wicket-keeper.
Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara put on an excellent 89-run stand for the third wicket as India recovered after the loss of the two openers.
Imran Tahir was expensive with the ball (0 for 47 in eight overs) but took a good catch at fine-leg and was responsible for Pujara's run out.
Rohit Sharma, who has hit two centuries in two Tests, could not capitalize and fell meekly to Vernon Philander for 14.
However, Virat Kohli carried along along with the reliable Ajinkya Rahane, driving the South African pacers to the ground.
Kohli brought up his fifth Test century, and his first against South Africa, to be the star on Day 1. Kohli ultimately fell to Jacques Kallis for a career-best 119.
Ajinkya Rahane (43*) and MS Dhoni (17*) took India to 255/5 at stumps, leaving the match in the balance. Dale Steyn was arguably the best Proteas pacer ending with one for 56 in 23 overs.