March 31, 2018 / 10:12 AM / a year ago

Cricket-Bavuma bats South Africa into commanding position

JOHANNESBURG, March 31 (Reuters) - Temba Bavuma’s unbeaten half-century has tightened South Africa’s grip on a first home series win over a scandal-hit Australia in almost 50 years, steering his side to 400 for seven at lunch on the second day of the fourth and final test at the Wanderers.

Bavuma (61 not out) and Quinton de Kock (39) added 85 for the seventh wicket before the latter top-edged spinner Nathan Lyon (2-124) to Mitchell Marsh at mid-on as he attempted to up the scoring tempo on Saturday.

Bavuma will resume after the interval with Vernon Philander (six) as the home side look to take the game further out of Australia’s grasp with the visitors’ chances of winning to level the series slipping away.

New Australia captain Tim Paine had complained after the opening day that his side were “flat” at times and they appeared so again, the usual intensity in their performance visibly lacking.

They created few other opportunities on a helpful wicket and with a relatively new ball, and with rain predicted later in the test, Australia’s hopes hinged on restricting South Africa to a first inning score they could surpass quickly and build a first innings lead.

The hosts resumed their innings on 313 for six under cloudy skies that should have made for a bowlers’ morning.

Bavuma and De Kock initially showed patience with the bat, with the former adding just a single run to his overnight score of 25 in the first hour of play.

But he was more expansive after the drinks break as South Africa looked to drive home their growing advantage.

It will also be a personal relief for Bavuma after he returned to the side in the last test in Cape Town with two failures following three months out with a finger injury.

Aiden Markram (152) is the top-scorer in the innings after his fourth test century in 17 innings, while AB de Villiers struggled by his free-flowing standards to 69.

Pat Cummins (3-81) has been the pick of the Australian bowlers, while debutant Chadd Sayers (2-71) has also collected a couple of wickets.

Australia have been rocked by the ball-tampering scandal that saw captain Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and Cameron Bancroft sent home with heavy sanctions.

South Africa lead the series 2-1 after winning the last two tests in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. (Reporting By Nick Said Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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