Pretoria – Shaun Marsh and Steven Smith shared an unbeaten 78-run partnership to steer Australia to 176 for four at tea, on day one of the first Test at SuperSport Park, in Centurion, on Wednesday.
Marsh (67 not out) and Smith (29 not out) steadied the ship after Australian captain Michael Clarke fell to Dale Steyn shortly after lunch.
Clarke was out for 23 attempting a pull shot which caught the top edge of his bat, giving Vernon Philander, who ran in from fine leg, a comfortable catch.
Marsh brought up his second Test fifty during the session after being recalled to the squad for the injured Shane Watson.
The visitors lost three wickets in the morning, with openers Chris Rogers (4) and David Warner (12) both back in the hut at 24 for two.
Debutant Alex Doolan (27) and Marsh put on 48 runs for the third wicket, before Doolan was out shortly before the interval.
Marsh only arrived on Sunday as a replacement for the injured Shane Watson.
South Africa’s Graeme Smith said after the winning the toss that he was not sure whether sending the opposition in to bat was the best option, but he was backed up by his fast bowlers and fielders as they took the first three Australian wickets relatively cheaply.
However, the visitors proved resilient after lunch and then picked up the run rate.
After a fast start from Australia on the opening morning of the three-test series, South Africa removed both openers quickly to leave the tourists teetering on 24-2.
First Warner chopped a Steyn delivery on to his stumps before Rogers was brilliantly caught by a diving JP Duminy at short leg off a rising Morne Morkel ball that rapped him on the gloves.
Marsh and debutant Alex Doolan (27) set about building a partnership before the latter was out 15 minutes before lunch, caught at mid-wicket by Robin Peterson as he tried to pull Ryan McLaren to the on-side.
After weeks of speculation, South Africa showed their hand in how they will replace retired all-rounder Jacques Kallis by giving McLaren his second cap, four years after his first against England in Jan. 2010. – Sapa, Reuters