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Day 1 of Johannesburg Test: Markram, AB give South Africa early advantage

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Day 1 of Johannesburg Test has seemingly marked the beginning of what seems like a fitting finale to a series that’s been no stranger to action. And controversy in equal measure. Those, who controversially remarked as to why Faf had the privilege to be still in a side wherein he’s been charged not once but twice with ball-tampering (as his two his fierce competitors Smith and Warner are back in the home dugout) found their memes and trolls suddenly adding meaning. The South African captain was out for a first ball duck in an inning where Aiden Markram and De Villiers truly batted like gods.
Who held the edge and who floundered in an all to play for deciding Test on Day 1 of the Johannesburg Test?

Session 1: Markram, Elgar lead cautious starts

If your scoreboard reads 313-6 at the conclusion of the first day, you are bound to feel safe having negotiated a hardly-fought contest on the opening day. On a plush green turf where the ball did both- came nicely on the bat and beat the blade easily- South Africa’s openers Markram and Elgar began a cautious start, adding useful runs against an Australian attack that severely lacked the bite that only someone like Mitchell Starc could have added.
The only concern that Australia had was that Starc never took to the field as Markram looked set and as if he belonged from ball 1, timing the ball as well has he’s done all series.
The first fifty runs came off rather sedately with the young right-hander (and future leader) Aiden Markram offering a confident frontal face of the bat to straightened deliveries and those that were pitched well enough for Tim Paine to collect them well over his head.
Cummins, the main strike bowler attempted to tempt South African batsmen by pitching the odd one well outside off but found to his dismay an absolute firm resistance from South Africa’s top order bats.
To sum up session 1, it would have to be said that openers Elgar and Markram frustrated both Hazlewood and Cummins and the Test debutant, 30-year-old Chad Sayers, emerged impressively.

Session 2: Elgar departs but Markram digs a well of concentration

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It’s not everyday one sees a top quality batsman but one heavily inexperienced dominating proceedings against an Australian attack, seemingly pushing the game away from their grasp with such pious dedication. But not everyone bats with the calmness and sense of purpose as Aiden Markram did on Day 1 of Johannesburg Test. In bringing up a brilliant hundred, a personal best of 152, a knock wherein he went 9 better, having struck 143 a couple of weeks back, Markram occupied the crease for nearly two and a half sessions, batting well onto Tea. At all this time, Cummins, Hazlewood, Lyon kept coming in hard at the precocious talent who denied them any possible chance of triumph, finding the gaps with confidence of an established virtuso and timing the ball as if he were playing backyard cricket. Amla was in there but didn’t look his best.
South Africa topped session two without a doubt, despite having Markram register his hundred and batting on 111. Even as they lost Elgar upon reaching 53 early in the day, they were able to hold off Cummins and Sayers.

Session 3: Markram reaches the milestone, Australia gradually crawls back 

Perhaps it should be made into a legal warning now: “Watch out, AB De Villiers lies ahead.” For time and again, South Africa’s frontline batsman has rescued them. He’s plundered their opponents as if swatting aside mosquitos from a pool of mess. This is what eventually turned out to be as Australia, picking two easy breakthroughs- first Amla, thanks to the ingenuity of Cummins and later, Faf for a golden duck- managed to stay clear, but ran into AB De Villiers.
Graceful against pace and utilizing those nimble feet well against Lyon who possessed mighty turn, De Villiers never looked out of sorts. He held on as eventually, Markram fell inside 18 from the close of play. AB would come down the track and lift a few flowing thuds over long on. He was also beautiful and strong in slicing some exquisite cuts square of the wicket and at one time looked set to reach close to three figures.
But all that said, Day 1 of Johannesburg Test would always be remembered for the beautifully sparkling knock by Aiden Markram, even as at one stage the Australians seemed reasonably threatening. Particularly with Pat Cummins on a hat-trick, having scalped Amla and Du Plessis, inside two hours of close of play, it did seem after all that AB may struggle. The momentum had beautifully shifted toward Australia in the closing stages. That is exactly when De Villiers responded brilliantly to rising pressure; dancing down the crease and striking Lyon beautifully in front of square as he approached his fifty.
Despite Markram possessing top honours, De Villiers combination of restraint and attack lent useful credibility to the Protean scoring. He would reach his 46th Test fifty, the third-back-to-back half-century of the series.
And thankfully, the final five overs didn’t see any further plummeting from South Africa, who had lost Rabada on ball one and therefore allowed Australia to mount a handsome comeback toward the end.
But at the close of play, Australia evened it out even as South Africa, with Bavuma and De Kock together look close enough to score a total of more than 400.

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