South Africa's bowler Ryan McLaren celebrates after bowling out Australia cricketer Alex Doolan for 27 runs on the first day of the test match between South Africa and Australia at SuperSport Park in Centurion. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE

Pretoria - South Africa captain Graeme Smith will feel vindicated in his decision to bowl first having reduced Australia to 83 for three at lunch on the first day of the first test at SuperSport Park on Wednesday.

Smith admitted after the winning the toss he was not sure whether sending the opposition into 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.

With the top three batsmen gone, Shaun Marsh (23 not out) and skipper Michael Clarke (11 not out) will be looking to rebuild in the afternoon session on a wicket that is expected to flatten out as the day progresses.

Morne Morkel (1-20) in particular troubled the visitors with some exaggerated bounce, but all the pacemen were a handful at the start of a series South Africa have been anticipating to cement their status as the world's best test side.

Australia handed a debut to right-handed batsman Alex Doolan as a replacement for the injured Shane Watson, while Marsh came in for the axed George Bailey.

After weeks of speculation, South Africa showed their hand in how they will replace retired all-rounder Jacques Kallis by giving Ryan McLaren his second cap, four years after his first against England in Jan. 2010.

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 David Warner (12) chopped a Dale Steyn delivery onto his stumps before Chris Rogers (four) was brilliantly caught by a diving JP Duminy at short leg off a rising Morkel ball that rapped him on the gloves.

Marsh and 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 McLaren to the on-side.

It might have been even better for the hosts had Hashim Amla not dropped Marsh at gully off the bowling of Morkel when the left-hander was on 12. - Reuters