Qantas Tour of South Africa
Pace shootout put on hold as Maharaj shines
Recalled Proteas spinner claims first five-wicket haul of a series billed as a battle of the world's best pace attacks
AAP & Cricket Network
3 March 2018, 12:04 AM AEST
It was billed as a pace shootout for the ages, but already the undercard is threatening to upstage the main event in the Test series between Australia and South Africa.
Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj finished as the pick of South African bowlers, claiming 5-123 off his 33.4 overs to see Australia dismissed for 351 in the first innings of the four-Test series opener in Durban.
Maharaj claimed the prized scalps of Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh on day one at Kingsmead and could have also easily dismissed David Warner with his first ball, which produced a confident lbw shout and referral.
Ball-tracking replays suggested the sharp-turning delivery was missing leg stump by some margin, although not everybody was convinced.
"Usman (Khawaja) told me he thought it was out as well, but at the end of day HawkEye proved everyone wrong," Maharaj said.
The tweaker was left out of the Proteas' XI for their previous Test, such is the strength of their pace stocks and the seam-friendly nature of a Wanderers pitch that was ultimately sanctioned by the International Cricket Council.
Incredible precision, a slow pitch and intimate knowledge of his home ground made for a productive recall.
Australia's batsmen were unable to leave a single delivery during Maharaj's 24 overs on the opening day, such was his accuracy.
"He controlled it well from one end, especially when the ball was going reverse," Warner said.
"He held up one end very well ... slowed our scoring down."
Maharaj also dismissed Smith in Perth while helping the Proteas record a series win that humiliated Australia in 2016-17.
He was thrilled to get the better of the world's best batsman again, having been brought on at Kingsmead after 10 overs.
"I was really excited to get his wicket," Maharaj said.
"We do a lot of planning with the spin bowling coaches, the video analysts and things like that. To gain the reward is a really nice feeling.
"I don't have many variations so I've got to rely on consistency to outsmart the batsmen.
"Kingsmead happens to be one of those wickets where if you just stop the scoring something will happen."
Qantas tour of South Africa
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.
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: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
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