Johannesburg (AFP) – Aiden Markram made an unbeaten half-century to give South Africa a steady start against Australia in the fourth and final Test as action on the field took centre stage after the ball-tampering scandal.
South Africa were 88 for one at lunch, with Markram on 53 not out, after winning the toss and batting on an overcast morning at Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.
In what appeared to be a public commitment to play in a spirit of sportsmanship after a tumultuous week, the teams lined up to shake hands with their opponents after the national anthems, while captains Faf du Plessis and Tim Paine — named to replace the banned Steve Smith — had a warm conversation before the toss.
The South African fans could not resist poking fun at the Australians’ attempts to alter the condition of the ball during the third Test. One banner in the crowd read: “Sandpaper Special, Only R10 (10 Rand)”
The pitch had less green grass than usual, although batting conditions remained challenging, with the fast bowlers gaining swing under the cloud cover.
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon took the only wicket when Dean Elgar was caught at mid-off by new cap Chadd Sayers for 19.
Sayers was one of four changes in the Australian team, replacing Mitchell Starc, who was ruled out with a stress fracture of his lower right leg and has also the Indian Premier Leaguie.
The other three changes were imposed because of the bans on Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft imposed by Cricket Australia for their role in the ball-tampering on Saturday.
The trio were replaced by Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns and Peter Handscomb.