India bat in first South Africa Test
Indian batsman Shikhar Dhawan (right) plays a shot from South African bowler Venon Philander on the first day of their Test match in Johannesburg at Wanderers stadium on December 18, 2013
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni backed his inexperienced batting line-up against South Africa's strong fast bowling attack on what he said he expected to be a good pitch.
There was a good covering of grass on a warm, party cloudy morning, and South African captain Graeme Smith said he also would have batted if he had won the toss.
Virat Kohli was listed to bat at number four for India, the position long held by the recently-retired Sachin Tendulkar, with Ajinkya Rahane coming into the side at number six for his second Test appearance.
Left-arm pace bowler Zaheer Khan returned to the Indian team for his first Test in just over a year, while there was a recall for the tall Ishant Sharma, with Mohammed Shami the third member of the Indian seam attack.
India opted for Ravichandran Ashwin as their only specialist spin option.
The South African team was as announced by captain Graeme Smith on Tuesday, with Hashim Amla returning after missing an innings win against Pakistan in Dubai in October because of the birth of his second child.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wkt), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain, wkt), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Mohammed Shami.
Umpires: Steve Davis, Rod Tucker (both AUS).
TV umpire: Shaun George (RSA)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)