CAPE TOWN: Australia needed less than 20 minutes of the final day to take the one more wicket it needed to finish off a 118-run win in a bad-tempered series-opening test against South Africa on Monday, a game overshadowed by an ugly off-field confrontation between players that was caught on a stadium security camera.
On the field, Josh Hazlewood trapped Quinton de Kock lbw for 83 and Australia bowled South Africa out for 298 in its second innings for a commanding win and the early advantage in the four-test series.
Australia had set South Africa a formidable target of 417 to win the test at Kingsmead, or to bat for two days for a draw, and needed less than four overs of the final day to seal victory.
“Really satisfying to win this first test match of the series,” Australia captain Steve Smith said. “The first test is always really important, especially against quality opposition like South Africa.”
Smith was asked few questions about the cricket during his post-match news conference, however, after leaked video from a security camera outside the players’ dressing rooms showed a confrontation between Australia’s David Warner and de Kock as the on-field aggression that characterised the game spilled over.
While the first test is finished, and the teams move to Port Elizabeth for the second match on Friday, fallout from Durban will continue with an investigation into the Warner-de Kock incident.
Warner was shown being restrained by teammates after an exchange of words with de Kock as the players came off the field and made their way through the tunnel and up a staircase that leads to both dressing rooms.
Series between the teams, both known for their hard-nosed, aggressive approach to test cricket, are often fierce but Sunday’s incident crossed the line, according to both team captains.
“I think what was said and done during that interval was regrettable on both sides,” Smith said. “Both sides are obviously disappointed with the way it all came about. A few regrettable incidents from both parties and hopefully we can move on and play in the right spirit for the next three test matches.”
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said: “For me, if you chirp each other, it’s always on the field. There needs to be boundaries … it needs to stay on the field.”
In purely cricketing terms, Australia’s aggressive approach in the field worked, dominating South Africa through most of the match, with fast bowler Mitchell Starc finishing with nine wickets and the Aussie pace trio of Starc, Hazlewood and Pat Cummins making their mark early on in the series.
Australia’s victory would have been much more comprehensive if not for 143 from Aiden Markram and the late resistance from wicketkeeper de Kock in South Africa’s second innings.
But off the back of a 4-0 Ashes rout of England, Australia’s strong run of form continued.
There was a subdued finish to the test on the morning of the final day in a stadium that was nearly empty of fans. That quiet conclusion was in stark contrast to the fiery fourth day’s play on Sunday, when there were a number of incidents that illustrated the on-field aggression.
Warner was at the centre of a loud, taunting celebration when he helped run out AB de Villiers, South Africa’s best batsman, for a duck. Australia bowler Nathan Lyon has been charged by the International Cricket Council for his role in the same celebration, when he intentionally dropped the ball on de Villiers as the South African lay on the ground.