Before a ball was bowled, Australia’s captain Tim Paine initiated a pre-match ritual that symbolises the new direction and attitude his team is taking after the fallout from Cape Town.
Paine, named Australia’s full-time skipper in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal, organised both teams to shake hands prior to play as a sign of goodwill among two highly-competitive, combative nations that have headbutted the imaginary line countless times this series.
“I’ve been watching SuperSport this week and they’ve had the soccer on and I notice they do that (shake hands) every game,” Paine told reporters after day one in Johannesburg where South Africa are 6-313 at stumps.
“I thought cricket is the gentlemens’s game and I spoke to our players about how it was something I wanted to bring in.
“It’s not something we are going to do every Test match but I think it is not a bad way to start a Test series.
“I think it’s something that we will use going forward, I just think it’s a good show of sportsmanship and respect.
“It’s something we want to take forward and if other teams want to do we’ll do it to start every series.”
Australia have vowed to change their ways after the Cape Town incident and it started today with the handshakes between the two teams before flowing on to the field.
Gone was the ultra-aggressive, in-your-face attitude of past Australian teams. Less focus on sledging, more on skill.
But that doesn’t mean the tourists went any softer on their opponents.
“It was still competitive,” Paine said.
“There wasn’t too much verbal going on back and forth between the two sides.
“We’ve spoken a bit about that as a group, about that going forward, that is not the way we are going to play our cricket.
“It still felt like a Test match, it was still really competitive, we were playing a different style but as well a lot of the guys were thinking about some other things or were a little bit flat.
“We had two guys (Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell) getting off the plane last night or the day before, but the way we stuck at it was terrific and we got some rewards late in the night.”
Paine said the journey his players face to regain the respect of the Australian public and fans is a long one, undoubtedly, and it starts on the field with how they conduct themselves and treat their rivals.
"We still want to keep a really competitive brand of cricket, but I think there's times we've got to be more respectful of our opposition,” he said.
“We've got to be more respectful of the game of cricket and at times we've tended to push the boundaries as far as we possibly could.
“I think that we've seen that people probably don't like that, so it's time for us to change.
“We're happy to do that.
“I think it actually suits this group of players, we're a different group of players than Australia have had for a long time, we haven't got too many guys that like to verbalise and have that sort of really hard-nosed Australian approach.
“We're about creating an environment where guys can come in and play cricket and just be themselves.
“I think if we can achieve that then we'll have guys having better results as well.”
Proteas opener Aiden Markram, who posted a brilliant 152 on day one, noticed a difference in the behavior of the visitors.
“The first three games there was a lot of chat on the field, as you would expect in Test cricket,” Markram said.
“Maybe not so much of that today.
“Both sides are pretty drained after what happened last week. It was a lot worse for the Australians but it still had an impact on us.
“But having said that, being out there and batting there was always pressure. It always felt that you are in a big contest.”
Having been previously bound by Cricket Australia’s internal investigation into the events at Newlands, Paine was today free to talk about the Test captaincy and his future in the coveted role.
The 33-year-old said he expected to stay on as captain and with a new coach set to be appointed following Darren Lehmann’s tearful resignation on Thursday, the Test team is set to take a more permanent shape in the months to come.
While it’s unknown who the new coach will be and the philosophies they bring, Paine shed some light on how he intends to captain the national men’s Test team moving forward.
“My captaincy style will be – I’ve never been a big believer in the cricket team being the captain’s team,” Paine said.
“I think that’s a bit old school, when you didn’t have all the resources that we do now.
“I see the captain’s role as being that link between the players and the staff and just a really small privileged role within Cricket Australia.
“But it’s just one part of the wheel and I’ll be trying to be very involving of all my staff, all my players and that’s the way I operate best.”
While the past week has been horrible for the Australians on practically all counts, Paine said there is a light at the end of a very, very long tunnel.
“It’s just been really challenging for everyone involved, it’s a really stressful time and our thoughts are certainly with our teammates who aren’t here at the moment,” he said.
“As I said we’ve had conversations and a lot of coffees with each other talking about what we’re going to do to change and how we’re going to do that going forward.
“From all this dark cloud at some stage there’s going to be a silver lining and I think all the guys are really keen to be involved in how that looks.”
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers.
Australia squad: Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard
Second Test South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard
Third Test South Africa won by 322 runs. Scorecard
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage