Warner stunned, Starc stranded on 299 as South Africa fight back on day one

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The bowlers had a field day during day one of the highly anticipated Test match between Australia and South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday.

They Aussies ran riot at the Gabba, bowling the South Africans out for 152 from just 48 overs. The Proteas tried to return serve, at one stage having the Australians at 3/23, but Steve Smith and Travis Head steered the home side back on track, with the Aussies finishing the day 5/145.

Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon lead the charge for the Aussies with the ball, while Scott Boland was just 2-5 after his first over. Lyon finished the day with three wickets for just eight overs, with Starc grabbing three as well off 14 overs. But the fast bowler would have loved just one more, finishing the innings agonisingly short on 299, just one shy of joining the elusive 300-club.

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Marco Jansen finished with 1-15 fro the visitors, and Anrich Nortje 2-37.

It was an all-out Aussie attack in the first hour of the day, with the visitors finding themselves in a woeful spot of just 4/27. Their wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne tried to steady the ship, forming a solid 98-run partnership with Temba Bavuma. But the Australian bowlers found their groove again by the end of the innings.

“Australia was well led by Mitchell Starc with three wickets with a new ball. Pat Cummins finished off with two and Scott Boland was got with the two wickets. Cameron Green couldn’t get his rhythm and Nathan Lyon was outstanding with 3/14. A fantastic job with the older ball,” said Channel seven commentator Greg Blewett.

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It may have been all smiles for the Aussie bowlers, but it certainly wasn’t that way for the batters early on. Already under a mountain of pressure to keep his spot, David Warner had an innings he would like to quickly forget, out for a golden duck after a sensational one-handed catch from Khaya Zonday at short leg. 

This latest failure means he hasn’t scored a Test century since January 2020.

The South Africans kept their hopes alive when Marnus Labuschange was caught for just 11, and then Usman Khawaja followed him back into the air conditioning for the same number of runs.

That’s when Head and Smith took over.

At the start of the day, Aussie captain Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bowl – the first to ever do that at the Gabba in 22 years – much to the delight of those in the stands.

“We’re going to have a bowl……looks like there’s colour in the wicket. Crowd seem to be happy! We’ll see how it goes, ” said Cummins.

It proved the right decision. “The captain, takes a risk, in a sense because he won the toss and bowled,” said the Channel Seven commentary team. “Rarely do captains do it now, It is justified. They have bowled South Africa out for 152 and you would say it was a very, very good decision by the captain and take on that challenge. They have done it well the Australians.”

There were emotional scenes from the Gabba when players, officials and the 29,306 crowd were joined by members of the Queensland police to pay their respects and share a moment of silence for the two fallen officers during the devastating siege in Queensland earlier in the week. Both teams wore black armbands in solidarity with the tragic event.

South African skipper Dean Elgar admitted before the match that the “batting has been a little under par” from his team. The visitors looked to start the day’s play on the right foot, but it didn’t take long for it all to crumble.

Starc drew first blood early on in the day, taking the first wicket in just the fifth over. The Aussie fast bowler drew the South African captain Dean Elgas in and forced him to play down the leg side, sending the ball straight into the gloves of Alex Carey and sending him back to the pavilion for just three runs.

“That’s extra bounce that, that’s really flown. 140km/h has flicked the glove down the left side,” said Channel Seven commentator Ricky Ponting.

“We have seen a couple clump into the left side and go down there for the boundaries. It’s the fifth time now that Mitchell Starc has got Dean Elgar in Test cricket. He wouldn’t have gone to sleep last night planning that one, plan plan plan. No worse way to get out than feather one down the left side. The South African captain goes.

“It’s an error ball from the bowler and you get sucked into playing it. Extra bounce, hits the glove, see you later.”

Cummins was next to get his name on the scorecard in just the ninth over, taking the wicket of Van der Dussen for just five runs. The opener fell victim to some brilliant bowling, and once again it was Carey causing damage from behind the wicket.

“Carey, another catch! And Pat Cummins takes his first in the match. Van der Dussen is gone and Australia strikes twice early on this opening day,” said fellow commentator Justin Langer.

“I tell you what, you can feel it as well. Australia can sense there is blood in the water here. 2/20. Plenty in it, under 10 overs still.”

The celebrations continued just five balls later when Scott Boland took his first wicket of the day. Sarel Erwee was dismissed for ten runs thanks to a sensational catch by Cameron Green in the gully.

“This is one heck of a catch. Fast and to his left. He went hard at the ball here. Just take a look at the movement from Cameron Green, spots it. He gets down to his left and takes it easily. Beautiful cricket. Australia is stirring. Now South Africa starting to struggle, 3/27. Erwee gone for 10.”

During the drinks break, Starc summed up the feeling of the Aussies perfectly on the Fox cricket coverage.

“Getting three wickets in the first hour, that’s a good start!” said Starc.

And just as soon as the water bottles were put back in the esky, Boland was at it again. This time taking the wicket of new batter Khaya Zondo, who just never got a chance to settle in. He was sent walking for a duck from just two balls after the green light was given on an LBW.

After the South Africans sunk to a disastrous 4/27, Verreynne took his place at the crease and did his best to stem the bleeding. His confident batting saw the runs start to tick over, and before long he bought up a 50-run partnership with Bavuma, with the scoreboard reading 4/80 at lunch.

Man of the moment Boland admitted he would have liked some more wickets despite the early dominance.

“We took 4/80 at lunch, would have been nice to get a couple more after early ones. We’re bowling well,” said Boland on the Fox coverage.

Langer was loving everything about the match so far from the Channel Seven commentary box.

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“Massive crowd which we love at all Test match cricket,” said Langer. “Number one versus number two Test ranked teams in the word. Australia would have gone away, won the toss, bowled on a very green wicket.

“Expect them to bowl a bit fuller. Scott Boland once again paved the way, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, and Cameron Green, expect to see them ball fuller. Another brilliant second session coming up. Can’t wait.”

The Aussie crowd held their breath when Cummins hit the deck after rolling his ankle during a delivery in the second over after lunch. Thankfully the skipper was quick to his feet and carried on with his over as if nothing had happened.

The visitors were looking to settle in, with Bavuma and Verreynne looking more confident with each passing over. They surpassed 100 runs in the 29th over with Verreynne bringing up his 50 shortly after. It looked like an actual game was forming instead of a whitewash.

But just as it seemed like Bavuma was on track to make his half-century, Starc made the breakthrough. A perfect delivery knocking over the stumps and Bavuma was bowled for 38 runs.

“He’s hardly put a foot wrong,” said Waugh. “First real mistake for the day and he’s out.”

As Ponting keeps proving over the summer his ability to pick a play before it happens, he was once again on the money for the newest batter Marco Jansen.

“Good build-up of pressure on Jansen here. Two from 16 balls. It is a good build-up. They’ve got mid-on three quarters of the way back, they are tempting in with a build-up of pressure to hit over the top.”

On the very next ball, Janson lost his cool with just two runs on the board when he tried to go big off a Nathan Lyon ball. He instead went high, and Green was waiting on the ground below for his second catch of the day.

Just like Ponting said.

“The pressure was building, he wanted it Lyon,” said Ponting after the wicket.

“That is a good catch. It looks like a very easy catch on TV, it is not. You can get disorientated running back with the flight of the ball. Great partnership bowling from Australia.”

Shortly after Starc edged closer to his 300th text wicket, claiming number 299 thanks to Steve Smith in the slips. Keshav Maharaj was out for two runs from just six balls.

Then the Aussies finally got the wicket they were after when Smith was back in the action and caught Verreynne off Lyon in the 41st over. He had put on a solid 64 runs but not enough to get the South Africans out of trouble.

In just the next over Starc thought he had hit his magic milestone when Kagiso Rabada sent the ball straight into the hands of Travis Head at short leg. Unfortunately for Starc, Head couldn’t make the catch, and he remained on 299 for a while longer.

“He had it, he lost it!” cried Channel Seven commentator Matthew Hayden. “Didn’t quite get the money but good effort.”

His next chance was left in the hands of the DRS, when Cummins sent up a review on the call of not out for Rabada. It wasn’t meant to be, and Starc remained stuck on 299.

Lyon was the next wicket-taker when Anrich was caught behind by Head for a duck. He almost finished off the rest of the side with an LBW on Rabada, but DRS denied the wicket after seeing it had hit the batter’s glove.

It was Cummins who took the last South African wicket in just the 48th over of the day, thanks to Green catching Ngidi in the gully.

After a dominating performance with the ball, it was a shocking start from the Aussies with the bat, when David Warner was sent packing with a golden duck. He tried to block a quick ball that had picked up some extra bounce, the ball took the inside edge and was caught by a leaping one-handed Zondo at short leg

“He’s taken! First ball! It’s is a golden duck for David Warner!” exclaimed Fox commentator Adam Gilchrist.

When Labuschange was sent packing after Jansen delivered a beautifully angled ball across him that was caught by the South African skipper, the Aussies found themselves just 2/19. Khawaja followed after being perfectly bowled by substitute Anrich North and the hosts were at a loss at 3/23.

With an hour left of play, and the Australians having clawed their way to 3/95, Fox commentator Ian Smith believed the South African needed a couple more wickets to feel level.

“Two more wickets and they are equal. Anything less, and they are behind for the day, ” said Smith.

“This is getting away from them. It’s becoming T20 figures.”

“This has to be a big spell…otherwise they are going to be at a deficit. And they wouldn’t have thought that earlier being three for not many.”

Just after that statement, Head brought up his 50, and the Aussies were well in control. By stumps he and Smith had forged a 121-run partnership, and the earlier scare at the start of the innings was a distant memory.

But Smith was right in the end, when Smith was bowled for 36, and nightwatchman Boland added just one before catching an edge and being taken by the keeper. Head finished his impressive innings not out for 72.

And we finished with a game on our hands.

It’s been a fierce rivalry between the two nations dating back to 1902. There was another explosive chapter written in 2018 thanks to the Aussies’ Cape Town ball-tampering scandal, as well as mockery of Warner as well as his wife Candice by South African fans.

That dark moment in Australian cricket was recently once again front and back page news, after Warner’s decision to no longer fight his captaincy ban for his involvement in the saga.

But thankfully today was all about cricket, and there was plenty of that to talk about.

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