Mitchell Starc guides Australia to 1-0 series lead against South Africa

By @saihoops on
Mitchell Starc
Cricket - South Africa vs Australia - First Test Match - Kingsmead Stadium, Durban, South Africa - March 4, 2018. Australia's Mitchell Starc celebrates the wicket of South Africa's Keshav Maharaj. Reuters / Rogan Ward

Mitchell Starc finished with a match haul of 9/109 as Australia completed a 118-run victory over South Africa on Monday in the first Test of the four-Test series at Kingsmead, Durban. The Aussie pace spearhead followed-up his first-innings performance of 5/34 with 4/75 in the second as the visitors drew first blood in the series.

Starc won the Man of the Match award over all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who fell just four runs short of his second Test century in consecutive innings on Day 2 of the Durban Test. Marsh's valiant knock of 96 helped Australia recover from 177/5 to 351 all out, a respectable score on a bowler-friendly surface.

"It's nice to put a few (balls) in the right spot. Little bit of work to do with the new ball, getting early wickets. Winning a Test match, I'll take that for the group. (Changing wrist position between orthodox and reverse swing?) I don't find it too difficult, probably more natural when it's reversing, it's a good habit to have. (Bowl spin in bad light?) I didn't want to ... the skipper might have been trying to jag one himself. Just special to win a Test match," Starc said during the presentation ceremony, via ESPNCricinfo.

In response to Australia's 351, the South Africans were shot out for just 162 runs in 51.4 overs, conceding 189-run first innings lead to the visitors. Veteran batsman AB De Villiers remained unbeaten on 71 but ran out of partners as South Africa's lower order had no response to Starc's reverse swing. 

Australia posted a total of 227 in their second innings, setting up a massive 417-run target for South Africa. Opener Cameron Bancroft was the only half-centurion, finishing with 53 runs from 83 balls. Captain Steve Smith looked prime to push Australia forward, at 38 not out until falling LBW to part-time spinner Dean Elgar.

Mitchell Starc rips through South African tail

South Africa quickly stumbled to 49/4 as the Aussie pace trio of Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins ripped through their top order. After that, opener Aiden Markram (143) added 87 runs for the fifth-wicket with Theunis de Bruyn (36) and another 147 runs for the sixth-wicket with keeper Quinton de Kock (83). However, Markram's dismissal in the 77th over opened the floodgates for Australia.

Starc ripped through South Africa's tail-enders during the final session on Day 4 to effectively seal the victory. Quinton de Kock was dismissed by Hazlewood early on the fifth day as Australia walked away with a comfortable 118-run victory and a 1-0 series lead.

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis conceded that the team lost its way after giving up a huge first-innings lead. "They posted 50 runs too many, that's credit to the way they batted, their tail added vital runs. Both team were around 150-160 for 5. Our first innings total was always under par, that's the batters responsibility, not enough partnerships. Really proud of our fight but not quite good enough to live with Australia. (Port Elizabeth next) The character of this team means we'll never go down without a fight."

Australia's tour of South Africa will now shift to Port Elizabeth for the second Test starting Friday, March 9. After a stop at the picturesque Newlands in Cape Town, the four-Test series will conclude with the final match at the New Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.