De Kock fights but Australia on top

Tea South Africa 7 for 175 (De Kock 53*, Starc 3-42) v Australia
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Two of South Africa’s least experienced batsmen – Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock – fought back with half-centuries on the first day in Perth, but Australia remained on top at the tea break. Mitchell Starc had picked up three wickets and Josh Hazlewood two, while Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon had each struck once, as South Africa moved along to 7 for 175.

It was not exactly the scoreline Faf du Plessis had been hoping for after he won the toss on what looked like a good batting surface, but Australia’s bowlers had been impressively consistent and were backed up well in the field. At tea, de Kock was unbeaten on 53, but he had just lost Vernon Philander, who played on trying to pull Starc on 10, and the Australians were hoping to finish the tail quickly.

De Kock had reached his fifty from his 67th delivery with a boundary through backward square leg off Starc, and it continued his defiant innings, which had featured seven boundaries. He and Bavuma – in their 11th and 12th Tests respectively – put on 71 for the sixth wicket before Bavuma was sharply taken at short leg by a diving Shaun Marsh off Lyon’s bowling.

Bavuma had looked solid in reaching 51 from 86 deliveries, driving through the off side effectively and working runs off his pads. But his departure meant South Africa were still in danger of a sub-200 total, which had seemed well on the cards when he came to the crease earlier at 4 for 32.

For the 19th time since the start of last year, Starc struck in the first over of an international innings, the opener Stephen Cook his victim. Cook had been in shaky form during South Africa’s warm-up matches against second-string opposition, and it was no preparation for facing Starc with the new ball. The fourth delivery of the game moved away just enough, and Cook’s thick edge was snapped up by a diving Mitchell Marsh at gully.

A bigger blow was to come for South Africa in the fourth over, when Hashim Amla was done by the subtle variations in Hazlewood’s swing, his edge comfortably taken at second slip by Steven Smith. Like Cook, Amla had failed to score, and South Africa were 2 for 5.

Hazlewood picked up his second wicket when his accuracy left Dean Elgar muddled as to whether to play or leave a delivery just outside off stump. In the end, Elgar tried to whip his bat out of the way at the last moment, but the ball kissed his edge on the way through to Peter Nevill, and he was out for 12.

Siddle then gave Australia’s selectors reason to pat themselves on the back for his inclusion, striking in his third over when he had JP Duminy caught behind for 11. The ball nipped back in between bat and pad and Duminy, given out on field by umpire Nigel Llong, asked for a review. Replays showed the ball had indeed flicked his leg on the way through to Nevill, but suggested there had also been a thin inside edge.

Although Du Plessis and Bavuma saw South Africa through to lunch without further loss, du Plessis did not last long upon the resumption. On 37, he edged Starc to Adam Voges at slip, which brought de Kock and Bavuma together. A fightback was coming, but plenty of work remained ahead of the South Africans at tea.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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