Vernon Philander picked up his 10th five-wicket haul in Tests as South Africa decimated Australia to 85 all out on an action packed opening day in Hobart on Saturday.
Mitchell Starc offered the hosts a lifeline with an inspired spell after a record low home total by taking three wickets in 10 balls post-tea. However, Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock steadied the ship as South Africa finished the day on 171/5, a lead of 86 runs.
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.
Australia’s collapse revived memories of recent catastrophic batting collapses.
The capitulation revisited the nightmares of their miserable 47 in Cape Town in 2011 and England’s demolition for 60 at Trent Bridge last year.
Only skipper Steve Smith provided any 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.
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 and 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.
Rout and about
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.
Cricket statisticians went into overdrive as Australia plumbed new lows in Hobart -- it was also their lowest home total since their 76 against the West Indies in 1984.
David Warner was the barometer of an approaching Australian maelstrom when he recklessly whooshed at a wide ball in Philander’s opening over and was caught behind.
Things only got worse in Kyle Abbott’s following over when recalled Joe Burns was trapped leg before wicket.
Both openers were gone for just two runs and it was a steady procession from the wicket with only Smith offering any spirited resistance.
The Australians reached lunch at 43 for six after Usman Khawaja edged Philander to Amla at slip for four and threatened Adam Voges was out next ball, caught behind by Quinton de Kock.
Callum Ferguson, who fought off a hat-trick in his first ball faced in Tests, was brilliantly run out for three by a direct throw by fielding substitute Dane Vilas while going for a second run.
Wicketkeeper Peter Nevill perished after a DRS review of a lbw appeal off Kagiso Rabada.
Philander was forced to leave the field for shoulder treatment after a mid-pitch collision with Smith during a lbw appeal, but returned after lunch.
He bowled newcomer Joe Mennie for 10 and Duminy took a screamer in the gully to remove Starc, flinging himself to his right off Abbott.
Josh Hazlewood cracked two fours before he fell to a slips catch by Amla off Abbott.
De Kock took a blinding one-handed catch across the slips cordon to remove Nathan Lyon and end Australia’s misery.