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Australia Collapses Against South Africa, Takes Two Run Lead

The morning session belonged to the visitors.

04/11/2016 2:47 PM AEDT | Updated 04/11/2016 5:56 PM AEDT
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David Gray / Reuters
This was actually the moment after he hit a six on Thursday night.

Australia is just two runs ahead on the first innings in the first Test against South Africa in Perth. Just when we looked to be in cruise control, it became collapso time, as we lost the last nine wickets for 78 runs.

Shaun Marsh got out LBW on the stroke of lunch, wasting a review in the process when hit directly in front. Immediately after the sandwiches, Shaun's little brother Mitchell followed him back to the sheds, trapped LBW to Vernon Philander. Marsh pretty much just missed the ball, and is surely just one innings away from being sent back to state cricket. A nation breathlessly awaits some sense from the selectors.

The younger Marsh was soon followed by Adam Voges (27), Mitchell Starc (0), Peter Nevill (23) and Josh Hazelwood (4). Nathan Lyon was last man out, the fourth duck of the innings and the fourth scalp to Vernon Philander, who was the pick of the South African bowlers.

Steve Smith was unluckier earlier, out for a duck after an extremely sketchy LBW decision. After dancing down the wicket to rookie spinner Keshav Maharaj, the Aussie skipper was given the finger by umpire Aleem Dar.

Looked dodgy, and was. LBW verdicts are rarely given the bowler's way when a batsman is so far out of his crease, and on review, the DRS showed the ball barely clipping the off stump. The Smith decision followed the departure of Usman Khawaja for 4, who was bowled by paceman Kagiso Rabada.

Cricket Australia/Getty Images
We're with ya, Steve. No idea here either.

Earlier, Australian opening batsman Dave Warner narrowly missed the first Test century of the summer, though with his excellent 97, he did his part to ensure Australia rapidly encroached on South Africa's meagre first innings tally of 242.

Warner's 97 was a typical David Warner Test knock, with flourishes of Twenty20-style batting, punctuated by periods of patience, which in turn were broken by moments of "Hey I'm Dave Warner, I'll hit this ball for four even though no sensible person would try do that".

And it worked, as it usually does. Because Dave Warner, despite turning 30 last week, is still Dave Warner, and long may he stay so.

Despite falling just short of what would have been his 17th career Test century, Warner maintains a ridiculously good record at the WACA now, and would be perfectly entitled to blockade the nearby Perth Stadium, the 60,000-seat beast currently under construction which will host big cricket and football matches in the west from 2018.

The WACA has been good to Warner, and he good to it. He's amassed a double century, two centuries and two scores between 50 and 100 in just five Tests at the rickety old ground.

It was Dale Steyn who removed Warner, who pushed a little hard at a ball that left him, and was caught at first slip. The 33-year-old South African spearhead would have enjoyed that, especially after Warner made him look rather silly last night when he nonchalantly lofted a short ball over the third man fence.

David Gray / Reuters
Easy peasy.

Meanwhile Shaun Marsh reached his fourth Test fifty, to go with teh four Test centuries he has previously scored. Marsh, as we reminded you last week, is not the worst-performed Australian batsman in recent times. In fact he's averaged 48 over the last two years of his in-again, out-again Test career.

Marsh looked composed this innings. The 33-year-old only made the team after an unofficial batting duel with Joe Burns in Sheffield Shield cricket. Both men made centuries, but Marsh got the nod. It looks a good call.

Australia was all out for 244, just two runs ahead on the first innings after a much larger lead looked likely. You can follow the live scores here.

In another development, Dale Steyn went off with a shoulder complaint. He looked in pain and it appears to be a recovery of a troublesome injury which saw him miss several Tests earlier this year. His immediate ability to bowl looks doubtful.

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