Australia’s fearsome pace battery picked up right where they left off at the end of the Magellan Ashes with a dominant display on day one of the three-day tour match in Benoni.
Ashes leading wicket-taker Pat Cummins again led the way with four wickets, while Josh Hazlewood claimed three, allrounder Mitchell Marsh two and Mitchell Starc one as South Africa A were bowled out for 220 inside 59 overs having won the toss and elected to bat.
Australia had virtually a full session to bat out to the day and lost three wickets in the fading light to be 3-87 at stumps with Cameron Bancroft unbeaten on 24 and Shaun Marsh not out on 10.
On a Willowmoore Park pitch that provided variable bounce at times and sideways movement, the Australian quicks bowled with pace and hostility as the hosts managed just one half-century partnership, the 82 put on between Theunis de Bruyn and Zubryan Hamza.
A look at how the 10 South Africa A wickets fell shows the number of ways the potent four-pronged pace attack can dismantle a batting unit.
Seven batsmen were caught behind the wicket, some from genuine edges like the ones Hazlewood extracted from the bats of Hamza and captain Khayelihle Zondo as both players flayed cut shots to Smith at second slip.
Two edges ballooned to the cordon when rushed by short balls; first de Bruyn to a forward-diving Khawaja at gully off Hazlewood and then Duane Olivier, who could do nothing but fend a vicious bouncer from Cummins to a back-pedalling Smith for his third catch of the day.
Wicketkeeper Tim Paine nabbed two catches; a terrific one-handed effort high above his head to give an expensive Marsh (2-50 from 7.5 overs) his first wicket before a routine snick from the bat of Wiaan Mulder was easily accepted to end the hosts’ innings.
Starc looked at his best when he dug the ball in and his lone wicket of the day came when Rudi Second tucked an awkward ball off his hip into the waiting mitts of Bancroft at bat-pad.
With no speed gun it was difficult to judge who the quickest of the quicks was, but Cummins consistently rushed the batsmen and zipped one through the defences of Shaun von Berg to castle the right-hander neck and crop.
And to complete the innings, Marsh curved a ball that seemed to swing for most of the day into the pads of left-hander Malusi Siboto that was so plumb the bowler celebrated the wicket before the umpire had raised his index finger.
It was a complete fast-bowling display from the Australian speedsters that felt like it had three or four more gears available when the intensity climbs higher than a warm-up match played in front of no more than 20 fans.
While Nathan Lyon failed to take a wicket from 15 overs, he troubled the left-handers just like he did in the Ashes but was regularly whacked through the off-side by the right-handers without protection from mid-off to point.
The only sour note for the tourists on Thursday was the loss of Khawaja and Handscomb in quick succession.
The Queensland captain, opening the batting in this match while David Warner made the epic trek from Auckland to Johannesburg after leading Australia to T20 glory, moved to 21 before top-edging a pull shot off Olivier to present an easy catch to wide mid-on.
Three balls later, Handscomb shoveled Olivier to point to go for a duck to bring Smith and Bancroft together.
While the Western Australian was watchful on a spicy wicket, his captain looked in a mood as he hit his first four scoring shots to the rope and his fifth in to the stands to be 22 from 19 balls.
The captain added one more run before he edged Siboto behind to the shock of the bowler, fielding side and the batsman.
Once Siboto’s successful over was complete, the umpires came together and measured the light, which was dim enough to force spin from both ends as South Africa A scurried to complete the remaining overs with the extra 30 minutes tacked on.
Leg-spinner von Berg had Bancroft in all sort of trouble in the penultimate over but the plucky opener survived to walk off next to his WA teammate Marsh with Australia trailing by 133 runs.
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 not out 24 (72) Khawaja c Zondo b Olivier 22 (42) Handscomb c Hamza b Olivier 0 (3) Smith c Second b Siboto 23 (24) S. Marsh not out 10 (19) Total 3-87 (26 overs)
South Africa Bowling Olivier 2-23 (8 overs) Hendricks 0-27 (6) Siboto 1-3 (4) Mulder 0-11 (2) von Berg 0-8 (3) Muthusamy 0-11 (3)
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.
Warm-up match v South Africa A, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24
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