From 158-0 to 244 all out, an incredible fightback from the Proteas has seen them restrict Australia’s lead to just two runs.
And all this without Dale Steyn. It was the paceman who started the collapse by removing David Warner, but he followed Warner back to the pavilion with a shoulder injury that threatens to rule him out of the rest of the match.
Steyn started the slide by finding Warner’s edge to depart for 97. It was his 417th Test wicket, moving him into the top-ten all-time Test wicket takers. It was an absolutely crucial wicket, as Warner threatened to take the match completely away from the tourists.
An over later Steyn was off the field and now he’s in hospital receiving scans. The rest of the bowlers needed to step up, and they did so emphatically.
A pearler from Kagiso Rabada made a mess of Usman Khawaja’s stumps to walk for four, before a narrow lbw decision against Steve Smith saw the end of the skipper for Keshav Maharaj’s first Test wicket.
Vernon Philander bowled brilliantly all day. His probing lengths, just outside the off-stump, infuriated the Australian batting lineup, and when he got the occasional one to move in straighter, it brought about two wickets either side of Lunch.
First he got Shaun Marsh for 63 to make it South Africa’s session, and then he got his brother, Mitchell, for a duck.
The carnage continued.
Rabada, spurred on by the challenge of leading the attack, forced a leading edge out of Adam Voges to take the catch off his own bowling, introducing the tail far earlier than anyone would have imagined.
Mitchell Starc, chief destroyer from the Proteas’ innings with 4-71, only lasted five balls for the third duck of the day. That was Maharaj’s second, and in no time at all the Dolphins spinner had a third. The hosts might rue their wasted reviews, for Peter Nevill was deemed to have been caught by Amla at leg slip, only for replays to show no sign of the bat feathering the ball.
That allowed Philander to finish off the job, seeing off No 10 and 11 in the same over to notch up figures of 4-56. Maharaj took 3-56, stepping up excellently on debut.
It was an inspired comeback from the Proteas, bringing back memories of the 2012 encounter at the Waca that saw the Proteas post 225 before bowling the opposition out for 163.
There’s an enticing clash on the cards now, with or without Dale Steyn. The Proteas will look to press home the advantage with the willow in the evening session.
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images