DURBAN, March 4 (Reuters) - South Africa opener Aiden Markram led the resistance as they battled to save the first test against Australia on Sunday, reaching 167 for five wickets at tea on day four, chasing an improbable target of 417.
Markram was 85 not out, along with Quinton de Kock on 21, with South Africa needing another 250 runs to win the opening test of the four-match series after a terrible start to their second innings.
With another four sessions left on a deteriorating wicket, Australia are just five wickets away from keeping up their remarkable run of success in South Africa where they have won 28 times in 51 past tests.
Australia elected to bat on at the start of Sunday’s play after being 213-9 overnight and added 14 runs in 18 balls before Keshav Maharaj bowled Pat Cummins to finish with figures of 4-102.
Maharaj took nine wickets for the match in a rare high point for the home team.
South Africa lost their first wicket in reply with 29 runs on the board when Dean Elgar played away from his body to a rising delivery from Mitchell Starc and steered it into the gloves of Tim Paine to depart for nine.
Hashim Amla’s arrival at the crease brought about an immediate bowling change as Australia brought on Josh Hazlewood, who had dismissed the batsman five times in the last series between the two sides in Australia in November 2016.
Hazlewood quickly took another wicket as he trapped Amla leg before for eight.
AB de Villiers then returned to the pavilion after facing just one ball and without troubling the scorers.
He tried to run a quick single but was sent back by Markram and then found himself short of his crease as fielder David Warner threw the ball at the bowler’s end where Nathan Lyon whipped off the bails.
Home hopes were then handed another hammer blow when captain Faf du Plessis was clean bowled by Cummins, adding just four runs, and leaving South Africa reeling at 49-4.
Markram and Theunis de Bruyn were positive against the Australian bowling after lunch in an 87-run partnership for the fifth wicket that was filled with as many flourishing strokes as it was with chances for the visitors to snag a wicket.
That came when De Bruyn (36) nicked one from Hazlewood behind to Paine. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Toby Davis)