March 30, 2018 / 10:16 AM / a month ago

Cricket-Markram shines as scandal-hit Australia toil in fourth test

JOHANNESBURG, March 30 (Reuters) - Opener Aiden Markram led the way with an unbeaten half-century as South Africa took the morning honours against a much-changed Australia, going to lunch on 88 for one on the opening day of the fourth and final test on Friday.

The scandal-hit tourists, reeling from their ball-tampering scandal and led by new captain Tim Paine, made four changes, including a debut for seamer Chadd Sayers, but having won the toss South Africa had few alarms under cloudy skies.

Markram (53) and Hashim Amla (13) will resume in the afternoon, looking for a sizeable total on a wicket that is already taking turn and showing widening cracks as they seek a first home series win over Australia in almost 50 years.

Dean Elgar (19) was the only success for the labouring touring side, and his mode of dismissal was a familiar one, the third time in the series he was caught off a leading edge from the bowling of Nathan Lyon.

The spinner had taken the first two catches himself, but this time the ball was snatched at mid-off by Sayers.

Lyon was able to extract turn from the surface and looked threatening, though he was launched for a towering six by Markram that was celebrated enthusiastically by the vibrant crowd at the Wanderers.

Returning to cricket came as relief to a beleaguered Australian side who have endured a week of high drama after their captain Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and opener Cameron Bancroft were handed heavy bans and sent home for a ball-tampering plot in the third test in Cape Town.

The trio have been replaced in the side by Joe Burns, Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscombe, while Paine captains the side for the first time in a remarkable turnaround in prospects for a player not even considered by his state side a year ago.

Fast bowler Mitchell Starc has a fracture in his leg and was replaced by Sayers.

Burns and Renshaw only arrived in South Africa on the eve of the test and have had one net session, while all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who flew out with them, was not selected to play.

South Africa, 2-1 up in the series, are unchanged with fast bowler Morne Morkel playing his final test match before he retires from international cricket. (Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond)

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