The Proteas endured a nightmare middle session during which they lost four wickets for just 85 runs.
The Proteas were 94-2 at lunch, with Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis looking comfortable. Then everything changed as a raft of Proteas batters simply threw their wickets away.
Du Plessis got a gem from Yasir Shah that turned and brushed his outside edge before being caught by the wicketkeeper. However, the rest of the batters need a serious dose of introspection.
Elgar, usually so composed, slashed wildly at a wide delivery to knick off. Then, inexplicably, Quinton de Kock heaved across the line of a spinning delivery, only to toe it to midwicket. It was a disgraceful effort by the skipper of a side in trouble.
Temba Bavuma and George Linde then brought some stability to affairs, but that all ended when the former attempted a second run while the fielder had the ball in his hand. That left the Proteas on 179-6 and exposed a long tail.
Much responsibility rests on Test debutant Linde, while Maharaj will have to engage all his powers of concentration to help his team get to a competitive first-innings score on a wicket that doesn’t yet hold any demons.