South Africa v England: Passive Amla among hosts' big problems

By Jonathan AgnewBBC cricket correspondent
Hashim Amla slides in the field
Hashim Amla was appointed South Africa captain in June 2014

England performed well on the third day of the first Test against South Africa, but the big story has to be just how poor the hosts were.

The Proteas could not have had a worse day in Durban. Everything that could go wrong did, and they quite simply gifted England a position from which they really ought to win this game.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a number-one ranked sideexternal-link look in such a state of disarray. Their batting was dreadful, their confidence looked shot and the whole team seems directionless under the captaincy of Hashim Amla.

Amla is a lovely bloke and a beautiful batsman, but he offers nothing to this side in terms of leadership. He stands at mid-off, polishes the ball and doesn't seem to do much else.

Ex-England batsman Geoffrey Boycott on BBC Test Match Special
"I don't think South Africa could have had a worse day. The batting was horrible, three catches went down, Steyn got injured and they have as much chance of winning this as I have of going to the moon."

He's a naturally undemonstrative character, with no real air of authority about him, and I'm afraid to say that at the moment you look around the field and it's hard to know who the captain is.

As a player, when things are going against you, you look to the captain to inject some energy but I don't see any of that from Amla. It's just one of many problems the South Africa selectors will have to consider if they go on to lose this Test.

Steyn sideshow typifies chaotic South Africa

Dale Steyn bowls
Dale Steyn (centre) was hampered by a shoulder injury

Nothing illustrated the lack of clear direction in the South Africa camp better than the sight of Dale Steyn coming off with injury, coming back on again, and then trudging back off after three deliveries.

Players like Steyn are like gold-dust - South Africa ought to be wrapping him in cotton wool because if he's ruled out of the series than their chances of winning start to look very slim indeed. So it was puzzling to say the least to see him trying to bowl when clearly in some discomfort from an injured shoulder.

South Africa had better hope that the scan doesn't reveal anything too serious - it's hard to see Steyn playing any part in the next match Cape Town but they can ill afford to be without him for the remaining two Tests of the series.

Hales heave spoils England's day

England, on the other hand, look like a side with most of the pieces beginning to slot into place.

Once again I was impressed with Nick Compton at number three, who has batted diligently in his first match back in the side to make two significant contributions.

And England will also be very heartened by the performance of Moeen Ali in the morning session. He bowled as well as I've seen him bowl in a long time and richly deserved his wickets, and he will have a big role to play when South Africa bat again in the fourth innings.

Alex Hales walks off after being dismissed
Alex Hales is the eighth opener partner tried for Alastair Cook since the retirement of Andrew Strauss

The one disappointment for the tourists was the dismissal of Alex Hales. He battled so hard for his 26 runs - he lined up the quick bowlers better and tried to be more circumspect. But then he had a big heave at the off-spinner. He was obviously trying to get a bit of a move on but it was a poor dismissal.

England will be reluctant to switch things around at the top of the order, so Hales will get at least one more Test to prove himself, but the identity of Alastair Cook's opening partner is a problem that just won't go away for England.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's James Gheerbrant.