Dissecting the Proteas collapse

AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Knocked off their perch at the top of the ICC Test rankings, without a win in nine Tests, 2-0 down in the series against old foes England and having just been skittled for 83 ... it's safe to say that the Proteas have reached the bottom of the barrel. 

The 3-0 series loss to India and the batting frailties that were exposed there were put down to hostile conditions that were widely accepted as not being conducive to competitive Test cricket, but there can be no such excuses at home. 

And while Stuart Broad's masterful 6/17 will go down in the record books as the performance that swung the Wanderers Test match and ultimately the series, it was in the first innings where the Proteas first missed an opportunity to take the game away from the visitors.

Broad was magnificent, and there can never be a positive spin on an innings that crumbles to 83 all out, but a look at the conditions and the dismissals suggests that the South African batsmen were not as poor as the scorecard suggests in the second innings. 

Under grey skies and with the ball swinging in the air and zipping off the wicket, Broad was near unplayable at times. 

Hashim Amla and Dane Vilas were both out to a couple of blinding catches from James Taylor at short-leg, while the majority of the wickets in the second innings were simply a result of top-notch bowling. 

Uncharacteristically, of the top order batsmen only Dean Elgar will feel that he played a poor shot after he nibbled at a delivery from Broad that he could have left. 

Of course, the scorecard will not reveal the conditions on the day or how much Broad was moving the ball, and 83 all out will be seen as the moment the Proteas lost the series. 

But a closer look at South Africa's first innings is equally revealing. 

All 11 batsmen got to double figures, but more importantly all of the top seven got starts. 

From 117/1, South Africa were bowled all out for 313 with Elgar's 46 the top score. 

The rest of the top-order scorecard read: Van Zyl 21, Amla 40, De Villiers 36, Du Plessis 16, Bavuma 23, Vilas 26. 

AB de Villiers acknowledged after the match that while Broad's performance in the second innings was match-winning, it was in the first dig where the Proteas let it slip.

"We had a few opportunities throughout the Test match and one was that first innings. We were getting a lot of partnerships going and a lot of guys got in. It was a great opportunity for us to get 400-plus and we didn’t take that. 400-plus on this wicket is very tough to play against."

And, unlike in the second innings, the way the Proteas batsmen lost their wickets in the first innings was concerning. 

Stiaan Van Zyl tried to work a ball from outside off to the leg side, Elgar pushed at a ball from Moeen Ali that he didn't need to, De Villiers gloved a ball down the leg side, Faf du Plessis went aerial to pick out the man at deep square leg, Temba Bavuma was irresponsibly run out while Vilas was also caught in the deep ... all of those dismissals coming from questionable shot selection.

Of the top order in the first innings, only Amla could leave knowing that he got a ball deserving of a wicket after a Steven Finn scorcher.

With more discipline and patience South Africa could have gone big in their first innings, and it would have only taken one or two guys to kick on to get the score past 400.

If that had happened then we might have seen a very different Test match, but it didn't, and we all know what happened next.

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...

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