DURBAN - After just one game of the four-match Test series South Africa's lower-order batsman must be sick of the sight of Mitchell Starc charging in with an old ball gripped in his left hand.
Starc picked up the Player of the Match award for his efforts in Durban where he tormented the hosts with a fine display of aggressive, fast and accurate swing bowling. The left-armer was impressive, picking up figures of 5/35 and 4/75 to return 9/109 in the match altogether and just miss out on a second Test match 10-wicket haul.
His impact was all the more important for the visitors considering off-spinner Nathan Lyon bowled 32 overs in the second innings without reward for figures of 0/86. There was spin there for him, but fortune was not on his side, with South Africa largely playing him well out of the rough.
Instead, on a worn pitch, it was Starc's reverse-swing that did the damage. In the first innings he dismissed South African captain Faf du Plessis and Theunis de Bruyn before returning late on with an old ball to demolish the lower order, having Vernon Philander caught behind and Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel flummoxed by the ball homing in late on their stumps.
It was a similar story in South Africa's second innings too. After Mitchell Marsh had taken the crucial wicket of Aiden Markram, Starc revved up the engine and came hurtling in to take a triple-wicket maiden.
Philander was once again caught behind by Tim Paine before Keshav Maharaj and Rabada were beaten all ends up and clean bowled. Bad light prevented him from having the chance to compete a hat-trick on day four, and Josh Hazlewood claimed the final wicket on the morning of day five, but Starc's impact was there for all to see.
Interestingly, the 28-year-old said the art of reverse-swing comes naturally to him.
"It's nice to put a few in the right spot," he said. "I've still got a little bit of work to do with the new ball, getting early wickets (but) winning a Test match, I'll take that for the group.
"I don't find it (changing wrist position for reverse-swing) too difficult, it's probably more natural when it's reversing. It's a good habit to have."
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Not only did he shine with the ball, but Starc also added runs with the bat in the first innings that turned out to be crucial in the match. The left-hander smashed 35 from 25 balls to help Australia bolster their total to 351 and pile the pressure on South Africa.
South Africa skipper du Plessis pin-pointed the extra runs Australia managed to add in the first innings as a place where his side need to improve.
"They posted 50 runs too many, that's credit to the way they batted as their tail added vital runs," he said."Both teams were around 150-160 for five but our first innings total was always under par, and that's the batters' responsibility.
"We didn't make enough partnerships. To lose by 100-odd runs, we know we didn't have enough in the first innings."
South Africa will look to bounce back when the second Test starts in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
African News Agency (ANA)