Australia begin SA tour with victory

Shaun Marsh finishes unbeaten to guide tourists home in a final-session run chase

Australia will enter next week’s first Test with winning momentum after they defeated South Africa A in their three-day tour match in Benoni.

Set 140 to win in the final session on Saturday, Steve Smith’s men lost five wickets in pursuit before Shaun Marsh (39no) and Tim Paine (17no) delivered the win with 27 balls to spare.

As far as tour games go, the visitors will be content with what was achieved across the three days at Willowmoore Park.

The fast bowlers looked better with each new spell as the three specialist quicks bowled somewhere between 21 and 29 overs apiece, while the catching behind the wicket from wicketkeeper to point was flawless.

Highlights: South Africa A v Australia, day three

The only unticked box would have been the top six capitalising on their starts.

Opener Cameron Bancroft was the only batter to face more than 60 balls and occupy the crease for at least 90 minutes in an innings, and he did the latter twice.

Burgeoning allrounder Pat Cummins was the unofficial player of the match for his four wickets in the first innings and unbeaten 59 not out on Friday, his second first-class half-century.

Australia travel to Durban on Sunday morning to finalise their preparations for the opening Test of the four-match series at Kingsmead that starts on Thursday.

"There’s a few of us who haven’t played any red ball cricket here before, including a couple of the quicks," Starc told reporters after play.

"It was definitely a good hit out with the ball and the bat.

"Nice to have a little chase in the end and have to put the foot down to step up the rate and get close in the end.

"It was a good three days and a lot of the guys will take heaps out of it."

Starc fit and firing for Proteas series

For Australia to secure victory on the final day they needed early wickets and the new-ball pair of Mitchell Starc (4-46) and Josh Hazlewood (1-28) delivered just that, dismissing three batsmen between them in the space of three overs.

Of the trio of wickets to fall in the first session, the pick of the bunch was Paine’s one-handed diving effort to remove Zubryan Hamza for Hazlewood’s sole victim of the innings.

No further wickets were taken by the Australians in the morning session but after lunch Starc uprooted the leg-stump of South Africa A captain Khaya Zondo.

Having got wind of Wiaan Mulder’s selection in South Africa’s Test squad for the first two matches, Starc repeatedly bounced and sledged the young allrounder until he was dismissed for five from 11 balls, out lbw to Mitchell Marsh.

When wicketkeeper Rudi Second dragged Marsh on to his stumps in the 61st over, a quick end to the South Africa A innings and the match looked in sight.

But in Shaun von Berg and Malusi Siboto, the hosts launched a stunning counter-attack.

The pair put on 81 from 64 balls as von Berg hammered a 39-ball half-century that included five fours off one Nathan Lyon over.

Smith threw the ball to Starc to land the killer blow but both batsmen were ready for the bouncer barrage the paceman delivered.

Seemingly reluctant to bowl his fast bowlers with the first Test in Durban just five days away, Smith brought himself and Lyon back into the attack, and in the space of nine balls the innings was over.

Lyon had von Berg caught at bat-pad by Bancroft to end his entertaining innings on 52 from 43 balls before Smith’s leg-spinner accounted for the final two wickets to set Australia 140 to win in 36 overs.

The run chase started slow on a pitch that looked to be misbehaving when it came in contact with the new ball as Bancroft and Khawaja struggled to get the opening attack of Duanne Olivier and Beuran Hendricks away.

Day wrap: Aussie tail wags on day two

As the required run rate started to steadily climb, Khawaja charged and missed Siboto before he was out to Olivier, caught at second slip from a ball that reared up, took the shoulder of the bat and ballooned to von Berg.

First-drop Peter Handscomb narrowly avoided a pair when his edge off Siboto was put down by gloveman Second and raced to the boundary.

Four runs later the Victorian was out, his middle stump uprooted by Olivier to bring Smith to crease who put the same bowler over the deep backward square leg fence for six to get off the mark.

While Smith was batting, his Indian Premier League club Rajasthan Royals announced him as captain for the 2018 season, and it looked a smart choice when he launched a towering six off Olivier straight down the ground.

Day wrap: Quicks shine on opening day

But his ultra-aggressive approach would be his downfall as he attempted a pull shot over fine leg’s head but instead picked out the fielder on the rope to go for 25.

Like Smith, Bancroft couldn’t control a pull shot and was caught at deep square leg for 22 as the Marsh brothers set about reeling off the required runs.

The siblings added 26, Shaun with effortless timing, Mitchell with brute strength, but a questionable lbw decision ended the younger brother's stay on 14.

As the sun shone brilliantly over the outfield, the older Marsh and Paine ticked off the remaining 42 runs required to hand Australia a winning start to their seven-week tour.

South Africa A First Innings

Hamza  c Smith b Hazlewood  44 (89)
Malan  c Handscomb b Cummins  8 (34)
de Bruyn  c Khawaja b Hazlewood  46 (43)
Zondo  c Smith b Hazlewood  3 (11)
Muthusamy  c Paine b MMarsh  36 (86)
Second  c Bancroft b Starc  21 (31)
Mulder  c Paine b Cummins  29 (37)
von Berg  b Cummins  4 (10)
Siboto  lbw MMarsh  10 (9)
Olivier  c Smith b Cummins  0 (4)
Hendricks  not out  0 (0)
Total  220 all out (58.5 overs)

Australia Bowling
Starc  1-37 (14 overs)
Hazlewood  3-40 (12)
Cummins  4-32 (11)
M. Marsh  2-50 (7.5)
Lyon  0-45 (14)

Australia First Innings

Bancroft  c Second b Hendricks  45 (123)
Khawaja  c Zondo b Olivier  22 (42)
Handscomb  c Hamza b Olivier  0 (3)
Smith  c Second b Siboto  23 (24)
S. Marsh  c de Bruyn b Hendricks  25 (59)
M. Marsh  lbw Hendricks  28 (53)
T.Paine  lbw Siboto  22 (50)
P. Cummins  not out  59 (95)
M. Starc  c de Bruyn b von Berg  46 (76)
N. Lyon  c Hamza b Hendricks  38 (34)
J. Hazlewood  b Hendricks  26 (32)
Total  329 all out (90.4 overs)

South Africa Bowling
2-37 (13 overs)
5-83 (24.4)
2-56 (22)
0-52 (11)
von Berg 
1-55 (13)
0-30 (7)

South Africa A Second Innings

Hamza  c Paine b Hazlewood  28 (68)
Malan  c Bancroft b Starc  34 (68)
de Bruyn  c & b Starc  5 (11)
Zondo  b Starc  27 (72)
Muthusamy  c Bancroft b Starc  34 (76)
Second  b MMarsh  20 (47)
Mulder  lbw MMarsh  5 (11)
von Berg  c Bancroft b Lyon  52 (43)
Siboto  lbw Smith  32 (33)
Olivier  not out  0 (4)
Hendricks  c Handscomb b Smith  0 (4)
Total  248 all out (72.5 overs)

Australia Bowling
Starc  4-46 (15 overs)
Hazlewood  1-28 (12)
M. Marsh  2-35 (10)
Cummins  0-42 (12)
Lyon  1-67 (18)
Smith  2-22 (5.5)

Australia Second Innings

Bancroft  c Muthusamy b Mulder  22 (56)
Khawaja  c von Berg b Olivier  8 (19)
Handscomb  b Olivier  5 (9)
Smith  c Siboto b Olivier  25 (13)
S. Marsh  not out  39 (46)
M. Marsh  lbw Olivier  15 (11)
T. Paine  not out  17 (25)
Total  5-140 (29.3 overs)

South Africa Bowling
4-74 (12.3 overs)
0-7 (5)
0-21 (5)
1-23 (5)
von Berg 
0-9 (2)

Australia XI: Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Steve Smith (c), Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood

South Africa A XI: Khayalihle Zondo (c), Rudi Second (wk), Pieter Malan, Theunis De Bruyn, Senuran Muthusamy, Wiaan Mulder, Zubryan Hamza, Shaun Van Berg, Malusi Siboto, Duanne Olivier, Beuran Hendricks.

Qantas Tour of South Africa

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.

South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.

Warm-up match v South Africa A | Australia won by five wickets

First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5

Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13

Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3