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.
Opener Aiden Markram struck an excellent 152 to lead the hosts’ charge at Johannesburg as the focus shifted back to cricket after the ball-tampering episode.
Here, we analyse the performance of the young South African opener on the first day of the Johannesburg Test.
RUNS SCORED: 152
DELIVERIES FACED: 216
The 23-year-old continues to show his class in the series with his fourth Test ton. The opener’s inning was almost flawless as he looked in complete control on the opening day. The right-hander’s superb 152 gave South Africa the perfect start as they seek to win a first-ever home series against Australia.
Markram saw off the new-ball threat by the Australian pacers with a solid technique and temperament, latching onto anything loose outside the off-stump as he made the point and cover region his own. He was equally at ease against the spin threat of Nathan Lyon, bringing out his free-flowing straight drives against him.
Another Good Friday thought … Aiden Markram is a incredible Young opening Batsman … #SAvAus
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) March 30, 2018
Bar a lofted shot against Lyon that caught the toe-end of his bat, Markram was relatively untroubled for the most part of his innings but once again he failed to drive home the advantage and threw away his wicket with a soft dab to the gully fielder. He fell in the same manner as he did after his sensational hundred in the first Test, throwing away the opportunity to make a really big one.
FOURTH TEST TON
In the 50th over of the day, Markram brought up his fourth hundred, and second of the series, with a simple nudge through square-leg off Lyon. As he celebrated with raised arms, the compliments started raining in on social media, drawing praise from Virat Kohli once again.
Aiden Markram 👌👏
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) March 30, 2018
SURVIVES REVIEW AFTER TON
Just a few overs after Markram had registered his ton, he was struck on the pads with a sharp in-swinger from Pat Cummins. The Australians were up in arms immediately but Nigel Llong denied their appeals. Tim Paine opted for the review straight away and replays agreed with Llong’s decision, showing the ball to go over the stumps.
VERDICT – 9/10
The young Proteas batsman is developing quite the reputation already at such a young age, putting together another innings brimming with maturity and excellent temperament. He has such a languid, but imposing style and it is scary to think he is only 23. He has all the makings of a future superstar batsmen and South Africa have a real gem on their hands.
Aiden Markram is a once-in-a-generation player which is astounding considering he’s basically the same age as Kagiso Rabada, another once-in-a-generation player…
— Derek Alberts (@derekalberts1) March 30, 2018
With the announcement of the departure of Australia coach Darren Lehmann, the hunt is on for who might replace him to lead the scandal-hit team.
Here are five people who might take his place:
The former Test opening batsman has for some time been seen as a possible replacement for Lehmann, through his work as coach of Western Australia and the Perth Scorchers.
He filled in for Lehmann on a one-day tour of the Caribbean in 2016 and led the Twenty20 side at home against Sri Lanka last year when the series clashed with the Test tour of India.
As a tough batsman who averaged 45.27 in 105 Tests, Langer was noted for his bravery and fastidious preparation and has made it clear he wants his teams to be strong but fair and play in the right spirit.
He is seen as a man who understands the different personalities in a team and can extract the best out of a player, while also pulling anyone into line.
The former Australia Test captain and the nation’s all-time leading run-scorer has been reluctant to spend time away from his young family in recent years.
Ponting has been floated as the nation’s Twenty20 coach, having done an impressive job in a couple of short-term consultant stints, and winning an Indian Premier League title with Mumbai.
He may yet figure in a potential job-split between a red-ball coach and white-ball coach, an idea Lehmann flagged last year.
2 men can restore that Baggy Green now - Justin Langer & Ricky Ponting.— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) March 26, 2018
Men with immense Pride, Honour, Courage, Integrity & RESPECT!
They should be flying to SA with James Sutherland RIGHT NOW!
The former Test paceman coached the Adelaide Strikers to their maiden Big Bash League T20 title earlier this year and has also served as a consultant coach for CA in the past.
Gillespie coached Yorkshire to back-to-back Division One titles in 2014 and 2015 in English county cricket in a spell where the county lost five of 76 championship fixtures.
Gillespie went close before ultimately losing to Trevor Bayliss in the race to be England’s new coach on the eve of the 2015 Ashes.
Australia’s bowling mentor filled in as head coach during an ODI tour of India last year.
While Saker, who coached Victoria to the 2016/17 Sheffield Shield title in his only season at the helm, lacks the profile of some of the other contenders, he has previously made it clear he would one day love to take the reins.
The former Test wicketkeeper has been Australia’s fielding coach for just over six months.
Haddin may have limited coaching experience, but his skills are well regarded. The flinty New South Welshman has also served as an assistant with Australia A sides and has worked with the country’s most promising glovemen at the National Cricket Centre in recent years.