Oz in control on day one

2014-02-13 00:00

CENTURION — Steve Smith, the Aussie batsman who with his team-mate Shaun Marsh punished the South African bowlers yesterday, admits they were very surprised when Graeme Smith sent them in to bat.

“From the beginning it looked like a good batting pitch. We knew that initially it would be difficult, but would become easier to play once you manage the first period of play.

“There are a number of cracks on the pitch and with the sun baking down on it, we hope they will widen and play into our hands later in the Test.

“That’s why tomorrow [today] will be important for us to score as many runs and put the pressure on South Africa,” said Smith, who will continue this morning with his score on 91.

Australia piled up 297/4, with Marsh unbeaten on 122. His and Smith’s unbeaten partnership for the fifth wicket has already accumulated 199 runs.

“We have to keep up the momentum tomorrow and even see whether it would be possible to only bat once during the Test,” said Smith.

He said he was very tired but would not have any problems sleeping last night, even though he was only nine runs away from his fourth Test century.

“Shaun has been incredible. It has been a fantastic performance if you take in consideration that he has only been in the country for three days, obviously still struggling with jetlag.”

When the two got together at 98/4 they not only withstood the South African assault but managed to neutralise the bowling attack.

Openers Chris Rogers (4) and David Warner (12) were both back in the hut with Australia falling to 24 for two.

Debutant Alex Doolan (27) and Marsh then put on 48 runs for the third wicket, before Doolan was out shortly before lunch.

Smith attributes his recent batting success — he scored two centuries during the recent Ashes series against England — to the fact that he has upgraded his technique and become more patient. “I am now better aware where my off stump is and wait for the bowler to bowl at the correct places from which I can score,” he said.

Marsh worked the bowlers all around the wicket in scoring his runs, bringing up his ton late in the afternoon off 174 balls. It was his second Test century, playing in his eighth Test after a late recall to replace the injured Shane Watson.

Smith brought up his half-century off 118 balls in his 18th match.

After reaching their milestones, the duo continued to score freely until the close of play.

Ryan McLaren, who replaced Jacques Kallis in the South African team and played in his first Test in four years after a debut against England in 2010, believes that they will have to hit back hard early with the new ball this morning.

“They have batsmen such as Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson who can still hurt us. We had them at 98/4 but credit must go to Marsh and Smith for their excellent batting.

“In the first hour, we bowled well and there had been some movement on the pitch. The ball, however, became soft quite quickly and on top of that Dale [Steyn] also struggled with diarrhoea.”

McLaren, who had an excellent first spell with one wicket for 8 in five overs, still feels this is a wicket where the new ball can cause damage.

“For that reason, we must use tomorrow morning. We have a team with character, who will not lie down easily. That is for certain,” he said.

He also defended Smith’s decision to bowl first and said that statistically it has been proven here that it often is the right choice.

Yesterday was however not one of those days.

Steyn returned the best figures for the Proteas, taking 2/54 off 20 overs.


Australia first innings

C. Rogers c Duminy b Morkel4

D. Warner b Steyn12

A. Doolan c Peterson b McLaren27

S. Marsh not out122

M. Clarke c Philander b Steyn23

S. Smith not out91

Extras: (b-4, lb-7, w-6, nb-1)18

TOTAL: (four wickets, 90 overs)297

Fall of wickets: 1-15 2-24 3-72 4-98

Still to bat: B. Haddin, M. Johnson, P. Siddle, R. Harris, N. Lyon

Bowling: D. Steyn 20-4-54-2, V. Philander 16-2-55-0, M. Morkel 18-5-56-1 (w-1), R. McLaren 16-4-53-1 (nb-1, w-1), R. Peterson 10-0-34-0, JP Duminy 10-1-34-0.

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