TELFORD VICE, Perth
DEFIANT batting by Quinton de Kock dug South Africa out of trouble on the opening day of their test series against Australia at the WACA on Thursday.
De Kock’s aggressive 84 had everything to do with South Africa recovering from 32-4 – their worst start in 89 tests and more than 10 years – to a total of 242.
But the visitors were back in the dwang at stumps, which Australia, powered by the rampant David Warner’s unbeaten 73, reached on 105 without loss.
South Africa crashed to 20/3 in the first eight overs, and that after Faf du Plessis had won the toss and chosen to bat on a hard, fast pitch.
That marked the first time since the second match of the 2006 series in Sri Lanka that South Africa had lost three wickets inside 10 overs in the first innings of a test.
They slumped to 32/4 and then 81/5 before Temba Bavuma and De Kock steadied them with a stand of 71.
Mitchell Starc struck the first blow for the home side when he had Stephen Cook stunningly caught in the gully by a leaping Mitchell Marsh with an away swinger that rose sharply off the pitch.
Josh Hazlewood removed Hashim Amla, for only his ninth duck in 160 test innings, and Dean Elgar with the help of catches by Steve Smith at second slip and wicketkeeper Peter Nevill.
South Africa’s misery was complete when JP Duminy was given out caught behind to Peter Siddle despite no evidence of the ball deviating off his bat – except for a spike on the snickometre that could just as easily have been caused by the ball brushing his thigh pad.
Patient, careful batting by Du Plessis and Bavuma saw South Africa escape the first session without further damage.
But, a dozen balls after lunch, Starc had Du Plessis well held at shoulder height by Adam Voges at first slip for 37 to end the stand at 49.
That brought Bavuma and De Kock together, and for 15.4 overs South Africa inched their way back into the game.
Only for Bavuma’s gritty innings to be ended on 51 when he edged off-spinner Nathan Lyon onto his thigh pad for Shaun Marsh to take a tumbling catch one-handed at short leg.
Vernon Philander dragged Starc onto his off-stump with what became the last ball before tea, which brought debutant Keshav Maharaj to the crease to share an enterprising stand of 48 scored at better than a run a ball.
De Kock was ninth out when he attempted to pull a slower delivery from Hazlewood and blooped a catch to midwicket.
Having arrived at the crease when South Africa were 81/5, De Kock had helped them add 146 runs.
Starc ended the innings by yorking Dale Steyn to finish with 4/71.
Warner had hit seven fours off the first 28 balls he faced before his opening partner, Shaun Marsh, stroked his first four with a pull off Steyn.
By stumps Warner had hit 13 fours and a six off the 62 balls he faced.
And that after he would have been trapped in front for 17 had Philander not overstepped.