As the repercussions of the ball-tampering saga engulfed Australian cricket, the visitors took on South Africa in the final Test of the four-match series in Johannesburg.
The hosts finished the day on 313-6 after electing to bat first as they seek to win a maiden home Test series against the Australians.
We look at the key talking points from the first day as cricket took centre-stage once more.
AUSTRALIA RING IN THE CHANGES IN BALL-TAMPERING AFTERMATH
With Australian cricket experiencing one of its most turbulent weeks ever, the dust of the aftermath of the ball-tampering saga was yet to be shaken off when the side took to the field on Friday. Following the bans handed out to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft by Cricket Australia, it was Tim Paine who led the tourists at the Wanderers after being named Australia’s 46th Test skipper.
Queensland opening pair Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns replaced Warner and Bancroft in the Aussie line-up after flying in straight from their Sheffield Shield final win. 12th man in the infamous Cape Town Test, Peter Handscomb, took up Smith’s role in the batting-card. The visitors were also dealt a late blow in the pace department with a tibial bone stress ruling Mitchell Starc out of the match, leading to an Australia debut for Chadd Sayers.
ELGAR LOSES CONCENTRATION AGAINST LYON
It was overcast batting conditions which greeted the two South African openers when they came out to bat. There was plenty of seam movement on offer for the pacers early on, causing Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram to be extra cautious. With the Australian pacers being generally erratic with their lines and lengths, Paine brought on Nathan Lyon early into the attack.
The off-spinner was getting plenty of movement for a day one track, something Elgar failed to account for as he looked to launch Lyon against the turn. The 30-year-old could only miscue a hit over the covers but it fell safe with no fielders in the vicinity. Daring to take on Lyon again, Elgar charged down the track to loft him over mid-on but could only get a leading edge due to the sharp turn and this time, Sayers was on hand to complete the catch.
MARKRAM PUTS PROTEAS MARGINALLY AHEAD WITH CLASSY TON
The future of South African cricket keeps getting brighter with each passing Aiden Markram innings. The 23-year-old opener has been a revelation in the entire series apart from a quite second Test at Port Elizabeth.
On Friday, Markram was flawless, showing a solid defensive technique whenever the Aussie bowlers got it right and pouncing on anything loose whenever they got it wrong. He was particularly punishing in the point and cover region at the start of his innings before showing his wide array of shots with some gorgeous straight drives. After forming a 89-run partnership for the second wicket with Hashim Amla, Markram registered his fourth Test ton in just his 17 innings-long career so far on the way to his highest score.
CUMMINS’ AND SAYERS’ LATE BLOWS PULL AUSTRALIA BACK
With only two wickets coming in the first two sessions of the day, Australia were staring down the barrel of a tough day at the office. Cummins though, kept persevering and got his reward with the wickets of the centurion and skipper Faf du Plessis off consecutive deliveries in the final session of the day.
Even after that double-blow, South Africa were motoring along nicely with De Villiers looking on song after registering another Test fifty. Then, debutant Sayers struck twice in three deliveries to remove De Villiers and night-watchman Kagiso Rabada. These four wickets in the final session helped the visitors turn the tide of the match after the hosts had threatened to run away with it.
Those crucial strikes will mean Paine and his men will have their tails up slightly going into the second day.
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