Proteas continue to chip away but Marsh holds firm

Proteas continue to chip away but Marsh holds firm

The spinner had been the most effective of the home bowlers on a slow wicket, which Lyon wasted no time in utilising to his benefit as he came on in the eighth over of the South African innings.

The comparative slowness of the surface was instructive.

He fell four short of second straight Test hundred when he was caught at mid-on trying to hit over the top of the infield to get to three figures.

Which is not to say conditions at Durban were altered. After this, the teams play at traditionally slow Port Elizabeth.

Starc provided an entertaining cameo of 35 from 25 deliveries, clubbing two sixes over deep midwicket off Maharaj and striking four fours, including three in one Morkel over, before he was bowled by Maharaj from what became the final ball before lunch.

"I did everything I could to play as well as I could today, and put a lot of time and effort in training yesterday", he told ABC Grandstand at stumps. "I felt confident, you don't always feel that way". "I thought it might have something to do with the fact that we had a very, very good stump mic".

The West Australian survived a testing examination from Kagiso Rabada, although he offered a sharp return catch on 42 that the speedster was unable to snatch in his follow through.

Captain Steve Smith has made it clear in the past he is a big believer of the mantra that "what's said on the field should stay on the field". He bowled a couple of good deliveries and there's not much you can do about that.

Australia, flying high off the 4-0 Ashes rout in which Smith averaged 137, Marsh 74 and Warner 63, were probably slightly disappointed with their start considering the benign pitch, which led Smith to happily bat first after winning the toss. That was before Keshav Maharaj bobbed up as the threat.

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While Bancroft looked scratchy and possibly nervous against his new foe, Warner looked right at home in a country he's dominated like no other outside his own.

"The confidence he's got now is great for him", Starc said of Marsh. "I think the wicket is quite two paced".

"I sort of batted on middle and leg, and it hit right on the rough, right on the footmark that Vern made. You're playing cricket, it doesn't really matter what form of the game it is", Warner said.

South Africa had burned both reviews early and replays showed that had it been reviewed the decision would have been overturned.

An amusing sidenote from the day's play was Australia's unorthodox bid to get the stump microphones turned down.

Smith was the key, having attacked Maharaj successfully by skipping down the pitch to the ball. The left-arm spinner already recorded some astonishing numbers and feats which the South Africans couldn't do since their readmission to cricket in 1992.

Starc returned the compliment, describing Marsh's knock as unbelievable. There will be no early starts on subsequent days, with Cricket South Africa perversely attempting to combat bad light by adding overs at the day's end. But there is plenty yet to do. "It's such an abrasive wicket", he said.

Australia's Ashes triumph was built on exactly this style of patience and resilience. The gambit was first used by another Australian player more than a decade ago - Adam Gilchrist.