DURBAN, (Reuters) – Captain Steve Smith and opener David Warner both scored fifties on Thursday as Australia reached 225 for five before poor light brought play to an early close on the opening day of the first test against South Africa.
Smith, who was prolific with the bat in leading Australia to success in the Ashes, scored 56 while Warner contributed a characteristically quick fire 51.
Shaun Marsh added 40 and his younger brother Mitchell was 32 not out, along with Tim Paine on 21, when the umpires took the players off in gloomy conditions with 14 overs still remaining.
South Africa spinner Keshav Maharaj took two wickets, including that of top-ranked test batsman Smith, while Vernon Philander also bagged a pair.
Smith did not hesitate to bat when he won the toss, but early hopes of forging a formidable total on a slow deck went as Cameron Bancroft (5) and Usman Khawaja (14) were dismissed inside the opening 12 overs.
Smith and Warner put on a 56-run partnership that ended with the last ball before lunch as Warner was caught by AB de Villiers at second slip off Philander, and Australia were 95-3 at the end of the first session.
Another 56-run partnership with Shaun Marsh ended when Smith, after reaching a fifth successive test half century, feathered a bottom edge off Maharaj that went through to strike wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock on the shoulder and pop up for de Villiers to take another catch.
After tea, Marsh edged Maharaj to de Villiers at slip again to leave Australia precariously placed at 177-5 but Mitchell Marsh and Paine released the pressure with a unbeaten 48-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
South Africa were just six overs from taking the second new ball, looking to make further inroads into the visitors’ batting order, when the umpires consulted their light metres and the batsmen quickly departed.
Australia are playing a four-test series in South Africa.