Nothing in it after day one of Durban Test
Aussie batsmen threaten to go big, but sharp Proteas reel them in to leave Test finely balanced
Durban Test matches are not complete without routine bad-light terminations and, this time, the fading light left the first day of the first Test between SA and Australia tantalisingly poised.
Having won the toss and batted, Australia ended the day on 225/5 before the umpires ordered the players off the field with an hour remaining.
Mitchell Marsh was un- beaten on 32 and Tim Paine on 21 for a 48-run stand.
How well they bat on Friday will determine whether the wasted starts from their premier batsmen will be rued. Despite some occasional profligacy, the Proteas always found a way to reel in the visitors.
After conceding 95 runs in 27 overs in the first session, 75 were conceded in the same number of overs in the afternoon session.
The truncated evening session saw the addition of 50 runs in 20 overs. More importantly for the hosts, they took wickets in each session.
Unconverted starts were the order of the day for the visitors. Steven Smith (56), David Warner (51) and Shaun Marsh (40) all looked comfortable before they were prised from the crease. Smith had a life on 47 when AB de Villiers shelled a difficult chance off Vernon Philander, who took 2/36.
He was then tied down and proceeded to compile his 24th Test 50 off 94 balls before giving up the ghost 20 balls later for the addition of only six runs. here was an element of fortune with his dismissal. His attemp-ted square cut from Keshav Maharaj (2/69) ricocheted off Quinton de Kock’s gloves, but De Villiers atoned for his earlier mistake by taking the catch.
Smith drilled 11 fours in what was seen as a failure when his score is compared to his career average (63.75).
However, he looked dangerous and comfortable for the better part of his 155-minute stay at the crease.
Warner, who missed the warm-up game in Benoni after arriving in SA late, played like he did not need to acclimatise.
His 74-ball 50 was fluency personified, but a good delivery from Philander that kissed his outside edge on its way to De Villiers at second slip was the end of him.
Crucially, his wicket fell on the stroke of lunch, making waste of the 56-run stand Warner shared with his captain after the loss of Usman Khawaja’s wicket.
Australia found themselves in moderate trouble at 39/2 after 12 overs as Cameron Bancroft’s (5) and Khawaja’s (14) judgment outside his off-stump was found wanting.
Bancroft, whose place is now under threat because of an extended difficult run, was coaxed into chasing a wide Philander delivery into De Kock’s gloves.
Khawaja provided the game with a sparkling moment as his nick behind from a Kagiso Rabada (1/58) delivery led to a brilliant catch from De Kock.
The out-of-form wicket-keeper flung himself to his left and snared the ball magnifi-cently while first slip Hashim Amla looked on.
The fact Amla did not move a muscle showed how well he trusted his keeper.
Overall, Maharaj bowled with superb guile, pace and flight on a slow surface.