Starc swings Aussies to brink of victory
Australia moved one wicket from victory in the first Test against South Africa yesterday after Mitchell Starc's swing bowling decimated the hosts' lower order and dampened their hopes of an unlikely recovery.
South Africa were 293-9 at the close of the fourth day, still 123 runs adrift of Australia, who will return this morning to wrap up victory and a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.
Opener Aiden Markram provided some stout resistance, scoring 143, while Quinton de Kock's unbeaten 81 also helped frustrate the visitors as South Africa recovered from a horrid start to their second innings.
Australia looked to be heading to an easy win when they set the Proteas 417 for victory before taking four key home wickets for just 49 runs before lunch.
Dean Elgar went for nine before Josh Hazlewood dismissed Hashim Amla. AB de Villiers was run out after facing a single ball and then captain Faf du Plessis had his stumps knocked out of the ground by Pat Cummins.
Yet Markram gave the home fans a tantalising glimmer of an improbable victory. He was the mainstay in an 87-run partnership with Theunis de Bruyn (36) and added 147 more with De Kock for the sixth wicket.
South Africa were 135 runs off their target when a tired Markram tried to guide the ball down to third man and was caught behind by Tim Paine off Mitchell Marsh's medium pace.
Starc then returned to the attack, deciding to forego the second new ball in favour of swinging the old one, and had immediate success by claiming three wickets in a single over.
Vernon Philander was caught behind, and Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada were bowled with successive deliveries.
Yet Starc was denied a chance to complete his hat-trick due to bad light, with the umpires only allowing play to continue if Australia used spinners.