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Du Plessis ton leads South Africa fightback

Australia 0 for 14 trail South Africa 9 for 259 dec (Du Plessis 118*, Hazlewood 4-68) by 245 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

His innings was mint, his declaration sweet. He took the shine off all of Australia's fine bowling and silenced the lollygagging Australian fans. There, the terrible puns are out of the way early. Now for the substance, and on the first day - and night - at Adelaide Oval, everything Faf du Plessis did was of substance. From the moment he walked to the crease, things were against him. The pink ball was swinging, the Australians were on top, the score was 3 for 44. And du Plessis walked out to the sound of a booing crowd.

But if the spectators remembered du Plessis' previous visit to the ground, when he blockaded for 376 balls on debut to salvage an unlikely draw, they would have known he is a hard man to perturb. And with his ball-tampering conviction behind him, du Plessis had but one focus: leading his team back into this match. When he ran off late in the evening at 9 for 259, a hundred to his name and an aggressive declaration forcing Australia's openers to bat for an awkward period under lights, he had done so.

By Test standards it was an exceptionally early declaration, coming after only 76 overs of the first innings of the match. But perhaps he had noted that David Warner had been off the field being treated for a shoulder injury, and thus a declaration would mean Warner was prevented from opening the innings. In any case, although the debutant No.11 Tabraiz Shamsi had fun swinging the bat, there seemed little to be gained from batting on.

If South Africa's bowlers did not strike, they at leasted tested Australia's openers. It took 38 balls for Australia to find any runs off the bat, a single through midwicket from Usman Khawaja, sent out to open because Warner could not. Next ball, the debutant Matt Renshaw got off the mark in Tests with a boundary tucked off his hip from his 19th delivery. By stumps, Australia were 0 for 14, with Renshaw on 8 and Khawaja on 3. But on day two, they would have to get set once again.

And if day one proved anything, it was that getting set against the swinging and seaming pink ball was a challenge. In the third over of the match, Stephen Cook was lbw to Mitchell Starc for 4, only to be reprieved because it was a no-ball. But Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy had no such luck as they each fell with scores of 5, all to edges behind the wicket. In fact, every wicket until the eighth fell to catches behind the wicket.

Elgar edged a swinging ball from Starc and was snapped up at third slip by Usman Khawaja, Amla nicked Hazlewood and was caught by Renshaw low to his right at first slip, and Duminy gave Matthew Wade his first Test catch in more than three years when he inside-edged behind off Hazlewood. South Africa were 3 for 44, and du Plessis was walking to the crease. His team needed something special, and du Plessis duly delivered an innings of remarkable character.

When given width outside off he drove extremely well, but he also picked off runs through midwicket when the bowlers strayed onto his pads. He struck 17 boundaries, more than half of them off Starc. He brought up his fifty from 92 deliveries, and his century from 147. By that stage he had the No.10 for company, wickets having fallen regularly throughout the innings. They just weren't falling at his end. When he declared, he had 118 off 164 balls.

Du Plessis was the anchor but needed help along the way. First it came in a 51-run stand with Cook, who used his early reprieve to reach his highest score of the tour. Cook went to the tea break on 40 but could not add to his score upon the resumption, and edged Starc to Steven Smith at second slip. It left South Africa at 4 for 95, with two wickets each to Starc and Hazlewood, who were the most dangerous of the bowlers.

Jackson Bird, playing his first Test since the tour of New Zealand in February, struggled to find his rhythm early and leaked runs, but improved after tea and was rewarded when Temba Bavuma edged him behind for 8. Quinton de Kock struck a brisk 24 before edging Hazlewood behind and it was the first time on this trip that de Kock had failed to reach fifty in any innings - Test or tour match - and it ended his run of five consecutive Test scores of fifty or more.

Hazlewood snared his fourth wicket just before dinner when Vernon Philander was given out caught behind for 4, only to ask confidently for a review as the ball had brushed his leg on the way through to Wade. However, the thinnest imaginable spike on Real-Time Snicko suggested there might have been a faint inside edge before the ball struck Philander, and third umpire Aleem Dar upheld the on-field decision.

Still Australia could not run through the tail. Kyle Abbott contributed 17 from 50 balls and put on 54 with du Plessis for the eighth wicket - the highest partnership of the innings - before he was lbw to Bird. The final wicket came when Kagiso Rabada dragged his back foot just outside his crease off Nathan Lyon and was stumped by Matthew Wade, giving Lyon his first wicket since the first innings of the Perth Test, and ending his 660-ball drought.

And yet still South Africa fought. Shamsi, on debut and with a first-class average of 8.18, struck an unbeaten 18 in a 39-run stand before his partner, du Plessis, called an end to the innings. The result was a Test match poised in a fascinating position at stumps on day one. And all because of du Plessis, who had made 118 out of 259 and then wrong-footed Australia with his declaration. If he has had a week to forget, at least this was a day to remember.