A top-order collapse saw the Proteas struggle to 78-4 by lunch on day one of the first Test against Australia in Perth.
The Proteas had every reason to feel positive going into the first session of the much-anticipated three-Test series.
Carrying an unblemished record through to the Waca and an 11-year unbeaten record Down Under, Faf du Plessis won the toss and chose to bat first on a dry deck that might prove difficult to bat on in the fourth innings. Opposite number Steve Smith revealed he would have done the same thing.
With spin expected to play its part throughout the five days, Dolphins spinner Keshav Maharaj was brought in to make his debut, despite the SuperSport pundits talking up the potential selection of a fourth seamer in the form of Morne Morkel.
With question marks surrounding the fitness of pace duo Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle going into this encounter, they were quick to dispel those myths as they contributed to a complete Proteas collapse in the first 13 overs.
Starc, steaming in at 147 km/h, only took four balls to get in on the act, squaring up an out-of-sorts Stephen Cook, prompting an excellent catch from Mitchell Marsh at gully to walk for a duck.
It was Josh Hazlewood, playing in his first Test against the Proteas, to do the most damage with the new ball, as Hashim Amla fell just three overs later. Forced to play one that shaped in, Smith took the edge at second slip for the second duck of the innings.
JP Duminy came in at No 4 as he did against New Zealand in August, and looked to play positively from the onset as he attempted to repair the damage with Dean Elgar. The opener appeared to have played himself in, refusing to play anything outside off. An awkward length from Hazlewood brought him his second wicket, however, as Elgar feathered one behind for 12.
Duminy was handed a reprieve as Siddle almost had a wicket in his first over of international cricket since February, as Nathan Lyon dropped a sharp one-handed effort with Duminy on 11.
Du Plessis looked in good touch as he struck a couple of boundaries from there, but Duminy, still on 11, did eventually fall victim to Siddle’s relentless line and length, finding the slightest of inside edges. Not realising he hit it, Duminy reviewed the decision, only for hot spot and snicko to work in the favour of the umpire’s finger.
With the Proteas reeling on 32-4, Du Plessis and Temba Bavuma set about rebuilding and they did a solid effort of it. With Starc not having the same impact he did up front and Marsh failing to provide a useful fourth seam option, the pair built up a 45-run stand.
On 78-4, there’s still a lot of work for Du Plessis and Bavuma to do, as they go into the second session on 36 and 17 respectively.
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