To be fair‚ there always was a sense of inevitability about Australia’s 118-run win in the first Test, which concluded in a distasteful manner.

Australia know how to win in SA‚ regardless of their personnel. Faf du Plessis’s side will be hard-pressed to find a response in Port Elizabeth.

It is a pity the match will be remembered as the staircase Test because of the David Warner/Quinton de Kock incident.

While it was unnecessary‚ it adds an intriguing subplot for the rest of the series: the plot of who walks the talk best.

Sledging has been part of cricket since time immemorial.

Because of the sport’s ability to accommodate people from all walks of life‚ characters will be as different as fingerprints. There is a limit to everything and, clearly‚ lines were blurred in the Durban Test.

The one thing Australians‚ who at times think they have a God-given right to sledge regardless of their match position‚ need to realise is that when you give it‚ you’ve got to be able to take it.

There is no space in the game for potty brats who mouth off and throw their toys out of the cot at the first sign of resistance.

We have seen this in the past where Australians (remember Glenn McGrath and Ramnaresh Sarwan in 2003) find it easy to be personal but make a right royal mess of things when the shoe is on the other foot.

This is not to exonerate Quinton de Kock, but who decides when a verbal missive is personal?

If you do not take the time to examine a person’s character strengths and weaknesses‚ you are better served by zipping up and letting the game take its natural course.

It is sad that such an epic Test — which took place on a ground that 25 years ago acquainted SA with the destructive force of reverse swing — will be remembered for potty mouths.

Back in 1993 at Kingsmead‚ Waqar Younis gave SA a taste of the irresistibly moving ball, which decimated their then callow batting line-up.

Mitchell Starc did not do it once, but twice‚ sawing off the Proteas’ lower order at the knees. Starc’s spell is probably the best display of reverse swing bowling seen in SA since Waqar and Wasim Akram messed up Kepler Wessels’s side.

The lithe and slingy Starc has the pace‚ accuracy and stamina of both legendary Pakistanis. He channelled them into his 28.4 overs, which produced 9/108.

Serious questions linger for SA. What is the plan to combat the late swing? In Dale Steyn’s absence‚ can Kagiso Rabada swing it as late and consistently as Starc?

Can the lower order find some fortitude and, more importantly‚ can the big names follow the trail blazed by the imperious Aiden Markram?

For now, it seems the reverse swing issue could follow the teams throughout this series.

Depending on the direction of the wind‚ St George’s Park is amenable to reverse swing, while dry Cape Town will assist rapid ball deterioration. The best approach would be to force Starc to bowl a shorter length. From time to time‚ Starc’s fuller length gives away drive balls. But once the ball is hopping‚ he becomes a real nightmare.

It is easier said than done but it needs SA’s terrific trio of Hashim Amla‚ AB de Villiers and Du Plessis to flex their considerable batting muscle.

On paper‚ SA have a better line-up than Australia but this was not apparent in Durban — and the game is not played on paper anyway.

This will help the lower order to deal with the other bowlers, who may not be as effective as Starc with the older ball but are world class in their own right.

Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are rapid but do not possess the kind of threat posed by Starc.

Markram showed that the Australian bowling attack does not quite have the answers when the attack is taken to them. De Kock’s return to form and Theunis de Bruyn’s solidity could embolden SA’s tail, but they will need their big men to front up.

Finally‚ Rabada can swing the ball and easily matches Starc for pace, but the conditions in Port Elizabeth will have a big say.

TimesLIVE