Australia 297-4 (Marsh 122no, Smith 91no) v
First Test, Centurion, day one
It was very much a day of two halves at SuperSport Park in Centurion as the eagerly anticipated Test series between long-time number ones South Africa and recent Ashes winners Australia got underway.
The Proteas won the toss, elected to field, and had much the better of the first 34 overs, reducing Australia to 98 for four as Dale Steyn struck twice, Ryan McLaren removed debutant Alex Doolan, and Morne Morkel dismissed Chris Rogers.
However, Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith came together to add an unbroken 199 for the fifth-wicket and take the tourists to stumps on 297 for four. Marsh recorded his second Test hundred in his eighth Test match, while Smith passed 50 for the ninth time and ended just nine short of his fourth Test ton.
Marsh almost didn’t play, of course, after withdrawing from the original touring party through injury, then proving his fitness in the Big Bash League final, before being reinstated as a replacement for the injured Shane Watson. He then had to beat off competition from Phil Hughes and all-rounder Moises Henriques to take the vacant spot in Australia’s line-up.
Australia were certainly rewarded for the decision to play the extra batsman in Marsh, while South Africa went the other way and handed a recall to Ryan McLaren to replace the retired Jacques Kallis.
30 year-old Marsh, who played his last Test against India in January 2012, reached his fifty off 101 balls before accelerating to reach three figures off 174. Smith, meanwhile, brought up his half-century off 118 balls.
Their epic partnership was necessary after the hosts had initially made the most of winning the toss. Steyn induced Warner to edge onto his stumps in his third over to depart for 12, while Morkel had Rogers well caught by JP Duminy at short-leg after being introduced into the attack as first change.
Debutant Doolan and skipper Michael Clarke then added 48 and looked as though they might take Australia to lunch without further loss. However, Doolan pulled McLaren to mid-wicket and had to trudge off having made 27. Clarke then succumbed not long after the resumption when he hooked the last of a series of short deliveries that he would face from Steyn down to Vernon Philander at deep fine-leg.
It was then over to Marsh and Smith to cautiously begin the rebuild before pressing on to add 121 runs in the final session as South Africa’s bowlers tired. After winning the toss and putting the opposition in they would have hoped for more than four wickets. As it was, Steyn was the pick of the bowlers with 20-4-54-2, while Morkel (18-5-56-1) and McLaren (16-4-53-1) each picked up a wicket and Philander (16-2-55-0) was the unfortunate wicket-less seamer. Spinners Robin Peterson and Duminy both ended with none for 34 from 10 overs.
South Africa could face another sizeable chunk of time bowling tomorrow if they can’t make an early breakthrough in the morning. Australia still have the in-form Brad Haddin to bat, with a strong tail led by Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle to follow him.
© Cricket World 2014