South Africa's collapse down to lack of patience
South Africa lost six wickets for 25 runs in the evening session on the first day at the Wanderers. It was not, of course, the worst collapse of the series but their clumsy showing in the 69 minutes after tea came close to matching the recklessness of Australia's infamous 21 for 9 at Newlands.
AB de Villiers and Ashwell Prince resumed after the interval, both well set and the partnership going strong on 84. Prince had started out as the aggressor, scoring runs on the leg side, but was happy to pass the baton to de Villiers and let the natural order of things resume. de Villiers attacked, Prince was the perfect foil and the rate at which they scored their runs - nearly four an over - set South Africa up for what should have been a meaty first-innings total.
Jacques Kallis said, after the first day's play, that the team were aiming at a score of "350 plus" and with de Villiers and Prince at the crease that seemed possible. The pitch was perfect for batting and Australia were without Shane Watson but still the pair returned after tea far less confident. They scratched around, looked anxious and out of touch. Prince edged three consecutive boundaries to take him to the brink of his half-century and bring up the century partnership but instead of growing in confidence, he appeared more jittery.
The pair looked to target Nathan Lyon, Australia's offspinner, without success. Prince charged down the pitch to him twice before coming out of the crease to hole out to mid-on. With Prince gone, de Villiers wanted to attack and when he tried to pull Siddle he managed only a top edge. After Vernon Philander was dismissed lbw, Mark Boucher should have played responsibly but he top-edged a short ball to become the fourth South African wicket to fall in as many overs, for as many runs.
The strikes put South Africa in a situation they could not recover from, allowed Michael Clarke to end with figures of 2 for 6, and brought up issues that passed unnoticed, and consequentially unsolved, in the first Test. The talk of South Africa being underprepared before Newlands - they had not played a Test since early January and five senior squad members had not played a first-class match in the lead-up to the series - was shelved when they issued a comprehensive beating to Australia. What was forgotten in the madness was that part of the victory included a South African innings in which they were dismissed for 96.
The middle and lower order, in particular, appeared vulnerable then, and did again during the first day's play at the Wanderers. Kallis said the collapse had more to do with shot-selection than lack of match-time. "At 240 for 4 you are dominating the game; we had far too many soft dismissals and it's something that we need to address," he said. "It hasn't got anything to do with the amount of cricket we played; its poor execution and shot making."
Kallis hinted that the South Africa batsmen may be struggling to change their mindset as they shift between different formats of the game. "The game has moved forward. Twenty20s and ODIs have forced change. In our case, it was poor shot making which shouldn't happen in Test cricket. There has also been some really good bowling in between all of that."
He was, perhaps, pointing to the lack of patience shown by the South Africa batsmen. Australia's bowlers, barring Pat Cummins, who managed good pace and bounce, were unthreatening for much of the day. Mitchell Johnson was often too full, Peter Siddle a tad loose on occasion and Lyon appeared to be in for a pasting in the early stages of play. Their challenging deliveries were interspersed with wayward ones, which South Africa did capitalise on, but could have continued to take advantage of had they allowed themselves more time.
Instead, every time they got the advantage they appeared in a rush and relinquished it. "As soon as one side started to dominate the other side came back," Kallis said. "They [de Villiers and Prince] got us well ahead of the game and then Australia came back."
To Australia's credit, when they broke the stand between Prince and de Villiers they made full use of the opening. "The main aim was to keep the pressure on and build up dot balls. Siddle stayed really attacking and got the breakthrough," Cummins said, indicating that it was patience from the bowlers that paid off.
South Africa will need the same mindset in the field and will want the bowlers to show a better temperament than their batsmen did. Kallis said there was "enough" in the pitch for the seamers to make something of in the morning but warned that they "should not try and bowl Australia out," but "be more patient and keep driving our areas."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent