JOHANNESBURG – This was not one of those tour matches where the visiting team were going through the motions as can so often be the case.
There were no short bursts from the bowlers before heading off the field for a massage or an ice bath, no shirking responsibility in the field - balls were chased hard and if a dive was needed one was made.
The Australians were deadly serious about getting into some kind of match rhythm ahead of the four Test series against South Africa that starts next week. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, have all had three and half weeks off, having last played One-Day matches against England in the final week in January.
For them, yesterday was the perfect run around. They each got to bowl three spells, ranging between four, and in the case of Starc, six overs. There was sufficient menace about them to suggest the South African batsmen, who’ve struggled for much of the summer, are in for a difficult few weeks.
Whether Theunis de Bruyn will be the player to whom the selectors look for a solution to the Proteas’ batting ills will be one of the major discussion points when Ottis Gibson, Faf du Plessis and Linda Zondi meet next week.
What they will know from his most recent performances at franchise level for the Knights is that he is in form - he made 190 against the Dolphins two weeks ago.
Of the pace trio, Starc was probably the most inconsistent, struggling to find his line and length. Meanwhile, Hazlewood bowled 12 overs, but he was in tune a lot earlier than his new ball partner. Cummins had the ball moving nicely through the air, and he cleaned up the SA A tail eventually finishing with figures of 4/32 in 11 overs.
Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja had a brief hit before the close, but for Cameron Bancroft, who had a difficult time during the Ashes, this innings will be vital in building some confidence ahead of the Tests. He will resume on Friday morning on 24 alongside Shaun Marsh who has scored 10.