Aiden Markram made his second century of the series as South Africa built a strong position Friday on the first day of the fourth and final Test against an Australia team reeling from the ball-tampering scandal.
South Africa were 177 for two at tea, with Markram on 111 not out, after winning the toss and batting at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.
It was Markram’s fourth century in ten Tests in what has been a remarkable debut season for the 23-year-old opening batsman.
He again showed sound technique and good temperament allied with clean drives off front and back foot and some strong pull shots. There were 11 fours and a straight six off Nathan Lyon as he reached his hundred off 152 balls.
In what appeared to be a public commitment to play in a spirit of sportsmanship after a tumultuous week, the teams lined up to shake hands with their opponents after the national anthems, while captains Faf du Plessis and Tim Paine — who replaced the banned Steve Smith — had a warm conversation before the toss.
South African fans in Johannesburg could not resist poking fun at the Australians’ fateful attempts to doctor the ball in the third Test. One banner in the crowd read: “Sandpaper Special, Only R10 (10 Rand)”.
The Wanderers pitch had less green grass than usual, although batting conditions were challenging in the morning with the fast bowlers gaining swing under an overcast sky.
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon took the first wicket when Dean Elgar was caught at mid-off by new cap Chadd Sayers for 19, while Pat Cummins had Hashim Amla caught by a leaping Peter Handscomb at second slip for 27.
Sayers and Handscomb were two of four changes in the Australian team. Sayers replaced Mitchell Starc, who was ruled out with a stress fracture and will be unable to take up his place in the Indian Premier League.
The other three changes were forced on Australia because of the bans on Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft imposed by Cricket Australia for their role in the ball-tampering incident.
The banned trio were replaced by Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns and Handscomb.