Melbourne (AFP) - South Africa staged a gutsy fightback on Monday after Australia ripped through their fragile top order, reaching 144-5 at tea on day one of the second Test in Melbourne.
The hosts won the first of three Tests by six wickets inside two days on a hostile and green Gabba pitch in Brisbane last week.
The wicket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was less bowler-friendly, but Australian captain Pat Cummins surprisingly chose to field at a venue where toss-winning teams normally bat first.
South African skipper Dean Elgar said he was bewildered by the decision, but it proved to be a good one with the Proteas losing early wickets as they again struggled against the hosts' bowling firepower.
But after slumping to 67-5, they were rescued by Kyle Verreynne (not out 40) and Marco Jansen (not out 38) in a spirited 77-run stand, although Jansen had a huge let-off in the final over before tea when he was dropped by Usman Khawaja.
South Africa started well but were stunned just before lunch when captain Dean Elgar, who passed 5,000 Test runs, and the experienced Temba Bavuma were out in the final few minutes of the session.
It left them in trouble at 58-4 and the inexperienced middle-order facing a daunting task.
When Khaya Zondo was out in the fifth over after lunch for five, courtesy of a stunning Marnus Labuschagne diving catch, the end looked nigh before Verreynne and Jansen dug in.
On a humid day, Cummins asked some searching early questions, dropping Elgar on seven off his own bowling and then having two big lbw shouts against Sarel Erwee denied.
Erwee lived dangerously and was no match for local hero Scott Boland.
The seamer, who took 6-7 in the corresponding Test against England a year ago, came on to thunderous applause and got the breakthrough in his second over, with Khawaja taking a low catch at third slip to remove Erwee for 18.
South Africa's batting has been under the pump recently and as the senior player, Elgar knew he had to stick around.
But it was a grind, with the captain surviving when an inside edge off Boland sent the ball rolling onto his stumps only for the bails to stay on, then being dropped by Nathan Lyon.
Cameron Green -- the second-most expensive buy at the Indian Premier League auction last week -- got Australia's second wicket when Theunis De Bruyn attempted a pull shot and wicketkeeper Alex Carey took an easy catch.
Disaster then struck with a sluggish Elgar needlessly run out by Labuschagne going for a single on 26, and Bavuma fell for one next ball, edging Mitchell Starc to Carey after a poor shot.