AB de Villiers scored 74 not out as he lifted South Africa to 263-7 by the end of day two of the second Test at St George’s Park.
The Proteas led by 20 at stumps, but will feel they let Australia off the hook by scoring just 43 runs between lunch and tea.
The fall of the wickets of Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla immediately after the break was a blessing in disguise for the home side as it brought De Villiers to the middle, and he immediately increased the run rate.
Australia began the third and final session well when Mitchell Starc struck immediately when he found some reverse swing to bowl Amla for 56, ending a stand of 88 runs in 46 overs with Elgar.
Elgar was also back in the dressing room soon after when he was caught by Tim Paine off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood for 57. This was a big moment for Australia as South Africa now had two new batsmen in De Villiers and captain Faf du Plessis.
But De Villiers kept the scoreboard ticking over regularly. The Australians thought they had De Villiers caught behind off Pat Cummins, but the referral did not go their way. Du Plessis wasn’t as fortunate when he was trapped lbw by Mitchell Marsh.
Australia’s fourth seamer got another wicket in the following over when he found some reverse swing to trap Theunis de Bruyn lbw for just one in what was a massive turnaround. Quinton de Kock’s time in the middle did not last long either, as he was once again fooled by spin to be bowled by Nathan Lyon for nine.
It was business as usual for De Villiers, though, as he was playing with freedom, reaching his 44th half-century with a four off Starc.
He and Vernon Philander (14 not out) will be looking to increase their lead on day three on Sunday.
Australia 243 (1st innings): David Warner 63, Cameron Bancroft 38, Kagiso Rabada 5-96, Lungi Ngidi 3-51
South Africa 263-7 (1st innings): AB de Villiers 74*, Hashim Amla 56, Dean Elgar 57, Mitchell Marsh 2-26, Pat Cummins 2-55
South Africa lead by 20 runs
Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix