Aiden Markram hits ton, but Australia find their way back in Johannesburg
South Africa went to stumps on the first day of the series decider on 313-6 after a dominant 152 from opener Aiden Markram, and 69 from AB de VilliersUpdated: Mar 30, 2018 23:21 IST
Associated Press, Johannesburg
As the South African crowd taunted them over the ball-tampering scandal, Australia’s players found their fight in the final test on Friday.
South Africa went to stumps on the first day of the series decider on 313-6 after a dominant 152 from opener Aiden Markram, and 69 from AB de Villiers.
But two late strikes by fast bowler Chadd Sayers on his test debut, and three earlier wickets from Pat Cummins, gave the Australians precious hope after a week of despair.
“Where’s your captain?” the Wanderers crowd chanted. “Where’s your Warner?”
Captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were banned long-term and sent home in disgrace, as was batsman Cameron Bancroft, for their roles in tampering with the ball with sandpaper in the third test.
The remainder of the Australia team began the first day in Johannesburg standing in a tight circle on the field before play to congratulate Sayers and three other players brought into the lineup.
Sayers was included after Australia’s No. 1 fast bowler, Mitchell Starc, was ruled out with a stress fracture to his right lower leg, the latest blow to a team reeling from the cheating scandal.
Three others, batsmen Peter Handscomb, Matthew Renshaw and Joe Burns, were in the team for Smith, Warner and Bancroft. Renshaw and Burns were rushed over from Australia in the last few days.
Leading 2-1 after a 322-run win in Cape Town and seeking to seal the series, South Africa put together four strong partnerships for its first five wickets: 53 between Markram and Dean Elgar (19), 89 between Markram and Hashim Amla (27), 105 between Markram and de Villiers, and 52 between de Villiers and Temba Bavuma.
Australia was feeling the pressure when Markram and de Villiers took South Africa to 247-2, setting the crowd off with the tampering taunts.
But Cummins found the energy after a draining week to remove Markram and South Africa captain Faf du Plessis in the space of two balls, du Plessis for a first-ball duck.
Sayers took two wickets in three balls late in the day, sending back de Villiers and Kagiso Rabada.
Two of Australia’s new players were also involved in earlier dismissals.
Sayers took the catch to see off Elgar. Handscomb held on to another catch in the slips to get rid of Amla.
Du Plessis promised his team would be ruthless in its effort to seal the series amid Australia’s crisis and Markram was the best illustration of that, knuckling down to make his fourth century in his 10th test and hitting 17 fours and a six.
There was no sympathy from South Africa or the South African fans.
The chants over the absence of Smith and Warner were occasional and in pockets, but were a reminder that Australia might have to face up to the embarrassing ball-tampering episode for some time to come.
Wicketkeeper Tim Paine captained Australia for the first time officially, replacing Smith permanently after standing in for Smith on the last day of the Cape Town test as the tampering plot broke.
The Australians had been holed up in their team hotels in Cape Town and Johannesburg since Monday as an internal investigation was carried out into the actions of Smith, Warner and Bancroft.
Coach Darren Lehmann then made a tearful announcement on Thursday that he was quitting after this fourth test in the wake of the tampering saga. He was shown in close-up on television pictures singing the Australian national anthem before play.
He’d said a day before that it would be difficult, but his team would “be doing everything they possibly can to play and make people proud of them.”
First Published: Mar 30, 2018 21:58 IST