Mitchell Starc's five-for dismantled the South African batting (Image courtesy: AFP)
Mitchell Starc’s five-for dismantled the South African batting (Image courtesy: AFP)

Mitchell Marsh described namesake Mitchell Starc as the best exponent of reverse swing bowling in the world after Starc and off-spinner Nathan Lyon sent South Africa crashing on the second day of the first Test against Australia at Kingsmead on Friday.

South Africa were bowled out for 162 shortly before the close, losing their last five wickets for just 12 runs, giving Australia a lead of 189 runs on the first innings.

Lyon started the slide for the hosts and finished with three for 50, while the tall left-armer Starc gave a magnificent display of fast, reverse swing bowling to take five for 34

“In my opinion he (Starc) is the best in the world,” said Marsh, who top-scored with 96 in Australia’s total of 351. “Reverse swing bowling when he’s bowling at that sort of pace is near impossible to play. We saw that today.”

On an abrasive surface, which has helped spin bowling and enabled the fast bowlers to gain reverse swing, Marsh predicted that South Africa would struggle again in the second innings.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good day tomorrow. All three of our (fast bowler) guys are world-class reverse swing bowlers so it’s going to be hard work for South Africa,” he said.

AB de Villiers played almost a lone hand for South Africa, making 71 not out off 127 balls with 11 fours.

He batted fluently but watched helplessly as his teammates collapsed.

“I felt really good leading up to this Test,” he said. “I felt confident, you don t always feel that way. I was very motivated to score some runs for the boys. Unfortunately there were not enough partnerships.”

De Villiers said that his plan was to bat for as long as possible. He intended to be more aggressive when batting with the tailenders but lost the strike and could only add one run as the last five wickets fell for 12 runs.

Marsh played a crucial role, batting well with the tail as the last three Australian wickets added 100 runs.

He looked set for his third century in his most recent four Tests before picking out the tallest man in the field, Morne Morkel, who leapt to take a catch at mid-on off Vernon Philander.

“It was an important innings for me and also for the team,” said Marsh. “I was really proud of the way I batted with the tail today.”

Mitchell Starc destroys South Africa; Australia lead by 189 at stumps on Day 2, 1st Test
Mitchell Starc destroys South Africa; Australia lead by 189 at stumps on Day 2, 1st Test

Asked to explain his recent form, Marsh said: “I ve worked extremely hard on my defence, keeping the good balls out. That s given me a lot more confidence now to be a lot more patient and to choose the right balls to play shots at.”

On a pitch which has proved even slower than predicted by both captains, left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj took five for 123 for South Africa.

Spin continued to be effective when South Africa batted. Lyon was brought on in the eighth over and took two wickets in his first over.

Starc used reverse swing from around the wicket to make the ball move disconcertingly away from the right-handed batsmen before blasting out the last two batsmen, both left-handers, with full deliveries bowled from over the wicket.

Starc had earlier played a useful innings of 35 off 25 balls, batting with Marsh, to provide a momentum shift after Australia had made slow progress earlier in the day.