Five-fer: Talking points from Centurion

Australia

The start of the first Test between South Africa and Australia was anticipated more keenly than a new 'Now' compilation, and day one at Centurion provided something for fans of both sides.

The start of the first Test between South Africa and Australia was anticipated more keenly than a new 'Now' compilation, and day one at Centurion provided something for fans of both sides.

After being four down for just 98, with two wickets to Dale Steyn, Proteas fans were very cheerful (we assume, they weren't at the ground so we can't really say). Then, a whopping stand of 199 not out for the fifth wicket saw the Aussies reach stumps on 297/4.

Here are five talking points:

<b>1. Top Order Troubles</b>

Once again Australia found themselves in a bit of bother after the top order failed to get big runs, crumbling quicker than a soggy TimTam. Of course, the point of a batting order is for someone to make runs when others fail, and this time it fell to Marsh and Smith.

But it will be a worry to Darren Lehmann that they were in a sticky spot yet again, as they were many times against England, and had to be rescued. This time it was not Michael Clarke or Brad Haddin (though the latter could still do so).

David Warner's dismissal was ridiculous, swinging across the line to Dale Steyn of all people, and bottom edging it onto his stumps, while Chris Rogers allowed the hype and pressure to get to him, and was bogged down until his exit for four off 19 balls.

Debutant Alex Doolan, in the side for the injured Shane Watson, had heaps of pressure on his shoulders and he actually did quite well, putting on 48 with Marsh over a span of 15 overs. An excellent catch by Robin Peterson got rid of him.

<b>2. Marsh Mellow</b>

The above point leads on to Shaun Marsh, who three days ago was not on this tour and celebrating Perth's Big Bash League win. When it was announced he's be batting at four, leaving Phil Hughes on the sidelines, reactions online were mocking.

And then we had to retract our 'But his domestic stats are rubbish' comments in the afternoon session, and then eat further humble pie in the evening when he brought up his first Test ton against the Proteas, and his second in eight Tests.

His innings was impressive because a) He had little prep time and got here after a long flight just days ago, and b) He kept his focus when the track was green early on, and never played risky shots. Well, aside from the time he was dropped at gully when he was on 12, and then again in the covers…

<b>3. Golden Arm Required</b>

Oh how the Proteas miss Jacques Kallis. The big man, so recently retired that fans get a bit emotional talking about his exit, had an uncanny knack of breaking partnerships and bowling potent short spells.

But alas, once Steyn, Morkel and Philander made way for Ryan McLaren and Robin Peterson, the pressure valve was released significantly. McLaren, playing in only his second Test, did well early on and gave away very few runs, but was ineffective later on.

But once the ball got older, the batsmen played with freedom and without fear, rubbishing Nathan Lyon's rather patronising claims that Peterson is a 'world class spinner'. He's not, and we all know that. He and JP Duminy both went for 3.4 to the over for no wickets.

<b>4. On The Surface</b>

The above point could be negated by the fact that the wicket went from swingy and dangerous in the morning, to flat and evenly paced for the rest of the day. The grassy covering that ostensibly made Graeme Smith opt to bowl was soon irrelevant.

Of course, it could only seem that way due to Marsh and Smith's brilliance, but Centurion traditionally gets very good to bat on on days two and three, making Biff's choice even more puzzling.

He must have been convinced the Aussies would not be able to recover from an early collapse, given his attack is better than England's, but that didn't happen, even with the new ball.

<b>5. Attendance Argument</b>

I've never had a Twitter screaming match, such as it is, with David 'Bumble' Lloyd before, and I'll avoid doing so again in future. He opined that South Africans obviously don't care about cricket, given the low attendance levels at the ground.

The more Saffers tried to explain that it's the middle of the week, school is on and people can't just take off work for no reason, the more he harped on about England and Oz fans being able to fill grounds.

He could not understand that unemployment and relatively expensive tickets, and thus valuing a job, made going to the cricket mid-week a luxury for most South Africans. If most people here told their boss they were taking a day to watch cricket, or just didn't pitch at work, they'd be handed a first warning letter.

While it is disappointing to see an empty-ish stadium, let's wait till the weekend before condemning a nation's fans, shall we, Bumble? Go drink your Yorkshire Tea,

<b>Lindsay du Plessis</b>

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