PORT ELIZABETH – Australian vice-captain David Warner shrugged off a tough week of off-field scrutiny to post a gutsy half-century of brilliance on the first day at theSt George’s Park.
Warner, who was fined 75% of his match and issued with three demerit points for his part of the fracas with South Africa’s Quinton de Kock on a Kingsmead stairwell during last week’s first Test in Durban, put all that behind him to lay into the South African attack in the first session and move to 98/1.
Australia had earlier won the toss and Steve Smith had no hesitation to bat despite there being a steady drizzle all morning and grey skies hovering over the country’s oldest stadium.
But for Vernon Philander striking on the stroke of lunch-time to dismiss Cameron Bancroft, the visitors had it mostly their own way.
Proteas captain Faf du Plessis did not seem overly concerned with losing the toss, and was in fact, pleased that his bowling unit would have first bite at a green-tinged surface.
Australia certainly respected the conditions, and the South African bowling unit, with Philander and Kagiso Rababa delivering probing opening spells.
Du Plessis kept Philander on longer than usual with the “Ravensmead Wrecker” delivering seven overs from the Duck Pond.
However, Warner and Bancroft were intent on getting through this testing period, with Warner especially restraining himself as the tourists moved to 18/0 after 13 overs.
Bancroft, though, broke the shackles with a clip through mid-wicket to the boundary off Lungi Ngidi, who was recalled at the expense of Morne Morkel.
It was just the catalyst for Warner to unleash a flurry of cover drives as South Africa looked to find the edge. In the process, the Aussies rattled along adding 44 runs in the next four overs.
Warner had found his groove now after stroking another couple of boundaries off Rabada as he moved towards his half-century with ease.
It was looking entirely like Australia’s session before Philander pulled one back for South Africa when Bancroft edged one behind to a diving Quinton de Kock.
Australia: 98/1 (Bancroft 38, Warner 50, Philander 1/5)