Mitchell Starc offered Australia a lifeline with an inspired spell after a record low home total against South Africa on an opening day of carnage in the second Test in Hobart on Saturday.
The left-arm pace spearhead put the brakes on the Proteas with three wickets in 10 balls post-tea after the Australians were skittled for 85 off 32.5 overs.
The tourists reached stumps at 171 for five and pushed out their lead to 86. Temba Bavuma was unbeaten on 38 with Quinton de Kock on 28.
Up until Starc’s intervention South Africa had seized control of the first day with a total of 15 wickets tumbling for a combined 256 runs under cloudy skies.
Vernon Philander powered the Proteas with five for 21 as Australia folded to their lowest total at home against South Africa to revive memories of recent catastrophic batting collapses.
The capitulation revisited the nightmares of their miserable 47 in Cape Town in 2011 and England’s demolition of them for 60 at Trent Bridge last year.
“It was a magnificent all-round performance from everyone, catches needed to be taken, there was a run out and all those things add up to a collective team effort to bowl a team out,” Philander said.
Skipper Steve Smith provided backbone with his unbeaten knock of 48 as the Australians failed to back up their talk of rebounding from their comprehensive 177-run thrashing by the Proteas in the Perth series opener.
“It was a bit of a reminder of Trent Bridge the way the ball was going around. At the end of the day 85 is not good enough from an Australian cricket team,” coach Darren Lehmann lamented.
Just as South Africa looked well on the way to emulating the intimidating West Indies teams of the 1980s-1990s with three straight series wins in Australia, Starc struck.
He toe-capped Dean Elgar with a lethal yorker in front of the stumps with his first ball after tea then removed Stephen Cook with his penultimate delivery of the over.
Starc then had Perth centurion JP Duminy snapped up by Smith at second slip reducing the Proteas to 46 for three.
Skipper Faf du Plessis followed lbw to Hazlewood for seven and Hashim Amla was caught behind off the same bowler for 47.
The Hobart rout followed Australia’s first innings collapse of 10 for 86 in Perth when they squandered a 158-run opening stand to surrender meekly to the Proteas.