OK, so we've got ourselves a competitive Test match. Great stuff. Already a nice change from the first two.
South African captain Faf du PLessis declared his team's innings closed late on the first day of the third Test against South Africa in Adelaide, with the Proteas on 9/259. In reply, Australia reached 0/14 at stumps after a super cautious start, with neither opener troubling the scorers until the seventh over.
Wickets fell steadily throughout the South African innings on a day when Australia looked sharp -- although the Aussies would have been disappointed to see South Africa add almost 100 runs from their position of 7/163 at the dinner break.
Du Plessis batted sweetly -- excuse the pun -- for his unbeaten 118, while those around him mostly faltered in the face of tight bowling from Australia, whose quarter of bowlers kept the run rate around three runs per over all day.
There was an early hiccup for Australia in the third over when Mitchell Starc trapped South African opener Stephen Cook LBW, but was found to have overstepped the line by a centimetre or so. Reprieve.
But wickets fell regularly, as they did at the inaugural pink ball day/night Test between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide a year ago, when the highest team score was 224.
At the 20 minute tea break at the end of the first session, Africa were 3/89. They lost a fourth wicket soon after the break, at which point Australia's bowling spearheads -- Starc and Josh Hazlewood -- had two wickets each.
If the main question plaguing Australian cricket this summer has been who -- apart from Warner, Khawaja and Smith -- can actually bat, the next most pressing issue has been who else can bowl at international level. Joe Mennie didn't really look to be that man in Hobart, and looks set to be a pub trivia question in the future.
But Jackson Bird has a touch of class about him. He nags rather than threatens, but what spouse doesn't recognise the damage that can do? His unerring line eventually draw a nick, and Bird had his first scalp -- and Australia's fifth. Josh Hazlewood grabbed the next two to take his figures to an impressive 4/36 at dinner.
In general, there was a more upbeat vibe about this Australian team. Matthew Wade chirps a lot more behind the stumps than his predecessor Peter Nevill did, and the team seemed to respond. Wade finished the innings with involvement in five dismissals, taking four catches and effecting a stumping. His teammates' fielding was generally neat.
Australia may still lose this match. It's worth remembering we dismissed South Africa cheaply on the first day of the Perth Test and look how that one worked out. But for now, the signs are good. Hazlewood finished with four wickets, Star and Bird two each and Lyon one. It would have been lovely to see Nathan Lyon take another wicket or two, but at last he broke his drought,
There were unusual scenes late in the day when Dave Warner was unable to open the batting for Australia. He had been off the field receiving treatment for a sore shoulder, and the rules state you can't bat or bowl until you've spent as long back on the field (or in the change room if there's an innings break) as you spent off it.
It was confirmed after play that du PLessis had deliberately declared the innings for this reason.
The South African skipper's clever act of gamesmanship meant that 20-year-old debutant Matt Renshaw had an even more nerve-wracking debut than he'd have expected. Though on the positive side, his makeshift opening partner Usman Khawaja is his Queensland teammate and the two had batted together before. They'll do so again on Friday after surviving 12 tense overs.Suggest a correction