Australia on top after top-order strikes

Lunch South Africa 4 for 78 (Du Plessis 37*, Bavuma 17*) v Australia
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Mitchell Starc struck in the first over of the match © Getty Images

At 10am, Faf du Plessis was pleased to win the toss on what looked a good batting pitch at the WACA. An hour later, du Plessis had a mountain of work ahead of him, his top order having struggled against the pace and movement of Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc. By lunch, du Plessis had steadied South Africa somewhat: he had reached 37, with Temba Bavuma on 17, and the total had moved on to 4 for 78.

That du Plessis and Bavuma were still at the crease was a small victory for South Africa after they had earlier stumbled to 4 for 32. Starc, Hazlewood and Peter Siddle all hit the right WACA length and found consistent lines that made the batsmen play, and there was just enough movement in the air and off the pitch to cause confusion.

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.

South Africa were 4 for 32, but Bavuma and du Plessis managed to see off any further threats before lunch during a 46-run stand. Du Plessis was watchful, but found five boundaries when the opportunities arose, and Bavuma looked solid at the other end.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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