Markram hits fighting ton but Oz just one wicket away from victory

Australia were one wicket away from victory in the first Test against South Africa after Mitchell Starc’s swing bowling decimated the hosts’ lower order and dampened their hopes of an unlikely recovery here today. South Africa were 293/9 at the close of the fourth day, still 123 runs adrift of Australia, who will return on Monday to wrap up what appears an inevitable victory and a 1-0 lead in the four-match series. South Africa’s opener Aiden Markram provided some stout resistance, scoring 143 runs, while Quinton de Kock’s unbeaten 81 also helped frustrate the visitors as South Africa recovered from a horrid start to their second innings. Australia looked to be heading to an easy win when they set South Africa 417 for victory before taking four key home wickets for just 49 runs before lunch as they devastated the home team’s top order. Dean Elgar was the first to go for nine before Josh Hazlewood claimed the wicket of Hashim Amla — the sixth time he has done so in the last four Tests between the two countries. AB de Villiers was run out after facing a single ball and then captain Faf du Plessis scored only four before having his stumps knocked out of the ground by Pat Cummins.Markram stands tallThe 23-year-old Markram’s knock belied his inexperience and gave the home fans a tantalising glimmer of an improbable victory. He was the mainstay in an 87-run partnership with Theunis de Bruyn, who scored 36, and added 147 more runs with De Kock for the sixth wicket. South Africa were 135 runs off their victory target when a tired Markram tried to guide the ball down to third man and was caught behind by Tim Paine off Mitchell Marsh. Starc then returned to the attack, deciding to forego the second new ball in favour of swinging old one, and had immediate success by claiming three wickets in a single over. Vernon Philander (6) was caught behind, followed by the wickets of Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada. — Reuters

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