CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 12: Steven Smith and Shaun Marsh of Australia leave the field at the end of play during day one of the First Test match between South Africa and Australia on February 12, 2014 in Centurion, South Africa. (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)

Johannesburg - A unbeaten 199-run partnership between Shaun Marsh and Steven Smith helped Australia to a commanding 297 for four at stumps on day one of the first Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park, in Centurion on Wednesday.

With all the talk before the start of the three-match series comparing the fiery bowling lineups of each team, it was the Aussie middle order which claimed the plaudits on the day with Marsh, not out 122, and Smith on 91.

The pair joined forces shortly after lunch with Australia in a spot of bother after the departure of captain Michael Clarke for 23, and the visitors on 98 for four.

Marsh worked the bowlers all around the wicket in scoring his runs, bringing up his ton late in the afternoon off 174 balls. It was his second Test century, playing in his eighth Test after a late recall to replace the injured Shane Watson.

Smith brought up his half-century off 118 balls in his 18th match.

After reaching their milestones, the duo continued to score freely until the close of play.

Dale Steyn returned the best figures for the Proteas, taking 2/54 off his 20 overs.

The Proteas entered a new era without the services of all-rounder Jacques Kallis, who retired from Test cricket at the end of last year.

They dominated the morning session picking up three wickets.

Openers Chris Rogers (4) and David Warner (12) were both back in the hut with Australia falling to 24 for two.

Debutant Alex Doolan (27) and Marsh then put on 48 runs for the third wicket, before Doolan was out shortly before lunch.

Skipper Graeme Smith brought on spinner Robin Peterson before the interval but it proved to have little effect.

Early into the afternoon session, Clarke became Steyn's second victim when he top-edged a hook to fine leg then South Africa remained wicketless for the remainder of the last two sessions.