Aiden Markram reached his fourth Test half-century as the Proteas cruised to 88-1 by lunch on day one of the fourth Test against Australia at the Wanderers.
The Proteas refrained from piling the pressure on Australia’s newbie batsmen by electing to bat first.
Faf du Plessis’ decision was based on the pitch conditions. The wicket is a little browner than the usual Wanderers pitch.
‘By the fourth innings, it will be up and down,’ he said in his pre-match interview. ‘I haven’t been the pitch expert in the last while. We’re expecting more turn than you would get here normally.’
Dean Elgar and Markram took advantage of the added pressure on Josh Hazlewood and debutant Chadd Sayers after Mitchell Starc was ruled out on the morning of the Test through injury.
Markram led the charge. He kept his strike rate above 50, while Elgar played his habitual role of gritty anchor.
Ten Tests in and the 23-year-old continued the fine start to his Test career, reaching his fourth half-century.
Elgar prodded along, as we have become accustomed to, playing ugly shots with streaks of brilliance in between. It took the pair 17 overs to reach their 50-run partnership.
For the third time this series, Elgar lost his scalp to Lyon with a failed lob shot. On 19, he charged down the wicket in an attempt to work the ball through mid-on but was fooled by the spin, found a leading edge and lobbed it to Sayers.
In came Hashim Amla at the perfect time, with Markram in full flow, giving the bearded genius the time to settle in and play his natural game.
Scores of 0, 8, 56, 27, 31 and 31 in this series belie Amla’s ability. It was 13 innings ago on 6 October 2017 against Bangladesh when the 34-year-old last celebrated a century.
Five minutes before the break, Amla reached 1,000 Test runs at the Wanderers. He will be key to keeping the calm at the crease, as Markram (53*) takes the role of the aggressor.
South Africa 88-1 (1st innings): Aiden Markram 53*, Hashim Amla 19* Nathan Lyon 1-22, Chadd Sayers 0-25.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images