At stumps on Saturday, South Africa were 269/6 with skipper Faf du Plessis (24*) the last specialist batsman.
Both of those knocks oozed quality and the Indian bowlers - particularly the seamers - were made to toil on a day that saw temperatures rising to the mid-30s.
After the first two overs ending in a maiden, Markram (94) struck a couple of boundaries in the fourth over to kick the proceedings but the introduction of Ishant (1-32) helped India tighten the grip.
Except that Ashwin produced the hugely disappointing figures of 0-83 off 36 overs as South Africa claimed a draw, and almost won.
The opening 85-run stand was followed by 63- (Markram-Amla), 51- (Amla-AB de Villiers) and 47-run (Amla-du Plessis) partnerships.
De Villiers chopped a delivery from paceman Ishant on to his stumps, with the hosts at 199/3.
Ashwin became the only Indian spinner to bowl 31 overs on the first day of a Test outside Asia since 2000.
It was an unnecessary dismissal from a South African perspective and it also sparked the late Proteas wobble, because in the very next over Ashwin had Quinton de Kock caught by Virat Kohli for a first ball duck. The hosts went into the Newlands Test with their strongest quartet of seamers - Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada.
India took the new ball in the 87th over, but South Africa managed to avoid any further damage. Till the time he fell six short of his century, Markram showed what class is well about.
Mohammed Shami (0-46) was haywire too, and India had to recall Ishant and Ashwin back into the attack. The pace-spin wicket ratio in ODIs played outside the subcontinent reached its peak in the 2000-09 period. India opted for DRS review but there was no edge. But there wasn't sufficient evidence to overturn the on-field umpire's decision. Understandable though, Virat Kohli and the head coach, Ravi Shastri asserted that this is the best squad ever visited South Africa and were pretty confident of turning the tables.
Credit has to go to Hardik Pandya for changing direction in his follow-through, fielding a ball nearly at square leg, turning around and going for and achieving a direct hit at the end that the batsman - Hashim Amla, slower of the two at that time - didn't expect action.
When will the South Africa v/s India 2nd Test match be played?
India's fast bowlers, led by and, have put India in the remarkable position from where they can win the series opener against South Africa in Cape Town. If India have to rely on their spinner and their support bowler and his fielding, they can still mess up this opportunity.
Mumbai: The one silver lining in India's humiliating defeat by South Africa in Cape Town was the performance of India's fast bowling attack.
To substantiate the above numbers, India found themselves really out of order in the 1st Test Match against South Africa, certainly not the way No.1 test ranked team should have played.