The Proteas batting line-up found new ways to disappoint on a good MCG pitch as they were bundled out for just 189 runs a little more than an hour after tea on the first day of the second Test against Australia on Monday.
Having been sent in to bat, openers Dean Elgar and Sarel Erwee weathered the early movement and, although Erwee, reaching for a drive and edging Scott Boland into the slips, had fallen for 18, South Africa looked solid on 56/1 as lunch approached.
But Theunis de Bruyn (12), the new face in the batting line-up as he replaced Rassie van der Dussen, then tried a wild pull stroke from off-stump against Cameron Green, top-edging a catch to the wicketkeeper. Having seen the previous delivery climb steeply from a similar line and length, it was poor shot-selection.
An even bigger Christmas present for the Aussies was to follow though as captain Elgar ran himself out for 26, moments after becoming the eighth South African to score 5000 Test runs. He had led a charmed life up till then, being dropped on seven and 19 and also surviving when an inside-edge trickled back on to his stumps.
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But Elgar failed to capitalise on getting in, and there was a hint of him trying to escape strike against Mitchell Starc when he pushed the left-hander into the covers and ran, Marnus Labuschagne producing a brilliant piece of fielding and a direct hit at the bowler’s end to run him out, the first time the skipper has suffered that dismissal in Test cricket.
The next delivery saw Temba Bavuma (1) caught behind off Starc and, after a promising start, the Proteas had slumped to 58/4 at lunch.
That became 67/5 in the fifth over after lunch when Khaya Zondo, flatfooted and throwing his hands at a drive at a wide delivery form Starc, was superbly caught by Labuschagne at extra over, moving sharply and then diving to his right.
Wicketkeeper/batsman Kyle Verreynne and bowling all-rounder Marco Jansen then steered the Proteas innings back on to the road as they added a much-needed 112 for the sixth wicket.
Verreynne, fresh off his half-century in Brisbane, was smoothly underway and went to another fifty, off 80 balls. Jansen took a little longer to get going, but his maiden Test half-century was just reward for how sensibly he batted.
Starc’s accident in the outfield while trying to catch Jansen saw him dislocate his finger, resulting in Green having a prolonged third spell.
And the all-rounder took full advantage as he ripped through the rest of the South African batting to finish with a career-best 5/27 in 10.4 overs.
Verreynne (52) and Jansen (59) were both caught behind the wicket to probing deliveries just outside off-stump in successive overs, and Keshav Maharaj (2), Kagiso Rabada (4) and Lungi Ngidi (2) then meekly surrendered as the last five wickets fell for just 10 runs.
This batting display, on a good surface, was even more of a reckless car-crash than the Brisbane fiasco.
South Africa’s bowling was then as loose as profligate shoppers at the Black Friday sales as Australia reached 45/1 at stumps. David Warner had cruised to 32 not out.
The Proteas did at least claim one wicket when Usman Khawaja, defending well out side off-stump, was caught behind off Kagiso Rabada for 1.
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