An embattled Australian side have hit back late on the opening day of the fourth Test, taking on a confident South Africa buoyed by a crowd baying for blood.
South Africa steamed ahead on the back of a brilliant 152 runs from Aiden Markram, notching 313 runs for the loss of six wickets from 88 overs.
The home side was cruising along until mid-afternoon when Pat Cummins led Australia’s attack with test newbie Chadd Sayers, ensuring the Proteas didn’t run away with the game.
Cummins made a heroic effort, taking two wickets in two balls, ending Markram’s dream run and, just minutes later, Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis on the first ball.
The moment breathed life into the touring side after a horror week dominated by the ball-tampering scandal and its aftermath.
Sayers’ Test debut at the Wanderers came some six years after Pat Cummins launched his Test career at the same intimidating South African venue.
And while the two men’s circumstances and backgrounds are radically different, each announced his entry into cricket’s top tier with aggression.
Cummins was rushed into Australia’s Test team at the age of just 18, earning man-of-the-match honours as he shocked a star-studded South Africa with steepling bounce in 2011.
An early breakthrough came when opener Dean Elgar mis-timed his stroke and lobbed Nathan Lyons’ delivery to mid-off, where Sayers was waiting.
Sayers took the new ball and followed suit, his first Test delivery a bouncer at Dean Elgar – but at a more modest 124 km/h.
The 30-year-old was presented with his cap by Adam Voges, who urged the red-ball specialist to stick to his strengths.
“I just said to him he’s worked incredibly hard to get to this point. He’s made a lot of sacrifices and should just be himself,” Voges told cricket.com.au.
“I’ve known Chadd for a long time, played against him a lot. We’ve had some terrific battles.”
Sayers battled without a scalp until mid-afternoon when he took two wickets as tea approached, nipping one on champion AB de Villier’s bat after 69 runs.
Two balls later, Sayers sent Kagiso Rabada packing.
The lethal threat, though, was opener Aiden Markram, who began the day by capably handling the new ball and whose confidence only grew as the contest wore on, knocking fours and a single six.
At times almost dancing about the crease, he countered speed and spin alike and finished as the star of the day, scoring a magnificent 152 runs off 216 balls.
Shane Warne provided commentary throughout the match on Twitter and praised debutant Sayers for his performance.
Congrats to Chadd Sayers on his late 2 wickets on debut ! It’s been a tough day for him & he hasn’t looked threatening bowling around 120 k’s an hour on an up and down pitch. But full credit to him for still giving it his all – well done ! 👍
— Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) March 30, 2018