Cape Town - Anrich Nortje was the sole shining light for the Proteas on the gloomy first day of the final Test at the SCG.
South African captain Dean Elgar would have been hoping for a much more inspired display from his team after their embarrassing innings and 182-run defeat last week at the MCG that surrendered the first away series to Australia since 2005.
But instead the Proteas delivered a lacklustre bowling performance, after Australian captain Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat, on a stop-start day due to consistent drizzle.
It was once again left to Nortje (2/26) to turn up the heat with his new-ball partner Kagiso Rabada continuing his indifferent start to spells in Australia.
Nortje delivered the first blow when he induced a thick outside edge from Melbourne double-centurion David Warner (10).
The Australian opener had seemingly looked to continue his form from the previous Test with a boundary first ball, but this positive intent proved to be his undoing when he flashed hard outside the off stump to offer Marco Jansen a comfortable catch behind the wicket.
Marnus Labuschagne and Uswan Khawaja then rebuilt the Australian innings with a solid second-wicket partnership before the former was offered a contentious reprieve.
Fielding at first slip, the recalled Simon Harmer believed he had pouched a Labuschagne outside edge off Marco Jansen, but despite umpire Paul Reiffel's soft signal of “out” the decision was overturned.
Labuschagne was on 70 at the time after moving through gears during the middle session along with Khawaja.
Fortunately for South Africa it did not prove overly costly with Nortje sending down a brilliant delivery after the resumption after the early tea break to dismiss Labuschagne.
It certainly was worthy of claiming the wicket of the in-form Australian No 3 with the ball pitching back of a length, angling in towards Labuschagne, before straightening to take the faintest of edges through to wicket-keeper Kyle Verreynne.
Labuschagne departed for 79 (151 balls, 13x4) with the partnership yielding 136.
The players were forced to leave the field immediately after Labuschagne’s dismissal once again as the clouds darkened leaving Khawaja on 54 not out.
Khawaja had, though, also been the benefactor of some good fortune when Harmer trapped him LBW with the second delivery of the second session before upon review, the television replays indicated that the ball had hit the left-hander’s glove.
Both teams were forced into making changes with Australia reinforcing their playing XI with the inclusion of Ashton Agar, Josh Hazlewood and Matthew Renshaw, while the Proteas called up Harmer and Heinrich Klaasen.
Renshaw has, though, tested positive for Covid-19 but will still be allowed to continue playing in this Test match.