Australia are likely to require another first-innings recovery if they’re to deny South Africa a series-levelling victory in the second Test.
The Proteas dominated from an early start to the late finish on day two at Port Elizabeth, amassing a total of 423 then reducing the visitors to 4-112 in two hours.
JP Duminy (123) suggested patience was the key to the flawless centuries he and AB de Villiers (116) scored on Friday.
It was sorely lacking from Australia, who crashed to 4-81 after spending some 150.5 overs in the field – an exhausting experience they had avoided in both Ashes series.
South Africa was bowled out early in the final session.
Nathan Lyon finished with 5-130 after bowling tirelessly all day, while Australia’s fast bowlers struggled on a lifeless pitch.
South Africa took advantage of its opportunity with the new ball late in the day, removing Chris Rogers (5), Alex Doolan (8) and Shaun Marsh (0) in quick succession.
It was Vernon Philander who got the initial breakthrough, trapping Rogers LBW early in the innings.
Wayne Parnell’s first three balls featured the wickets of Doolan and Marsh, as the left-armer made the most of his Test recall.
Parnell coerced edges out of the Australia pair with fine line-and-length bowling, needing only a fraction of movement to earn the scalps.
A counter-attack by David Warner and Michael Clarke boosted Australia’s position, but the captain fell to Philander late in the day for 19.
“We’ve got to be better in those tough situations,” Australia coach Darren Lehmann said of the late wickets.
“We’ve got to be better at restricting the wicket column.
“We’d love more first-innings runs … that’s what we need to do to get better as a cricket side.”
It was South Africa’s sloppy fielding and Warner, the man in the biggest hurry, that offered Lehmann the most hope his side could fight back.
Warner flayed the Proteas’ on-song pace attack beautifully to be 65 not out alongside nightwatchman Lyon (12) at stumps.
Having been dropped three times en route to a century in the first Test win at Centurion, Warner again chanced his luck to great reward.
He provided an edge that fell just short of de Villiers and another the wicketkeeper fumbled when the aggressive opener was on 43.
Lyon was dropped in the final over of his 37-minute vigil, shortly after being given not out when he edged Dale Steyn straight to de Villiers.
Duminy, responsible for dropping Lyon at gully, admitted it took the shine off his match-high knock of 123 and game-changing 149-run partnership with de Villiers.
“We did let ourselves down a little bit at the end with two dropped catches,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get a few more tomorrow.”
The Proteas, worried about wasting their final review on Lyon, opted against challenging umpire Kumar Dharmasena’s verdict in the penultimate over of the day.
Given it would have been overturned promptly, Duminy suggested it felt similar to a dropped catch. “A chance is a chance and you’ve got to take it, no matter which way it comes,” he said.
Day two of the second Test in South Africa
SCORE: South Africa 423, Australia 4-112
MAN OF THE MOMENT: Wayne Parnell. You may have thought there was only one left-armer playing this match but Parnell took more wickets in one over than Mitchell Johnson did in 25. A double-wicket maiden was a sweet return after four years out of Test cricket.
KEY MOMENT: After batting for almost five hours, AB de Villiers could be forgiven for grassing a catch when David Warner was on 43 and Australia 3-76. Warner, dropped three times in the first Test, is the man most capable of scoring quick runs for the visitors and will need to make the most of the reprieve.
STAT OF THE DAY: Australia needed 150.5 overs to end South Africa’s first innings. It was their longest stint in the field since bowling 154.1 overs against India at Hyderabad in March 2013.
SUMMARY: AB de Villiers and JP Duminy looked like flat-track bullies in posting big tons, but Australia showed how hard batting was on the slow-and-low pitch. Set a task of surviving two hours, the visitors lost four wickets and it would have been six if not for two dropped catches.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Couple of good balls and a couple of not great shots,” Australia coach Darreb Lehmann on the money about how his side collapsed to 4-81.