Australia close on victory after Bancroft fifty

South Africa face a battle to save the first Test as Cameron Bancroft made 53 to help Australia to a commanding 402-run lead.

Cameron Bancroft raises his bat   -  Getty Images

Cameron Bancroft made a half-century as Australia increased their commanding lead on day three of the first Test against South Africa, whose misery was deepened by an apparent hand injury for Dean Elgar.

Opening batsman Bancroft has seen his form come under severe scrutiny after an indifferent Ashes series and a soft dismissal in the first innings at Kingsmead.

But he went some way to responding to his critics with a valuable and well-constructed 53 in the morning session, while knocks of 38 from captain Steve Smith – who has surpassed 10,000 international runs across all formats – and 33 from Shaun Marsh helped Australia to 213-9.

It means Australia have a lead of 402 to take into day four and Smith's men, who skittled South Africa for just 162 in the first innings on the back of Mitchell Starc's sublime five-for on Friday, remain strong favourites.

To add to the worries of South Africa, who will have to bat out the majority of two days' play to salvage a result, it remains to be seen if opener Elgar – who injured his hand taking a fine catch to dismiss Starc late in the day – will be fit enough to bat.

Bancroft was the main protagonist of the morning session, anchoring the tourists' innings as David Warner (28) mis-timed a shot to mid-on facing Kagiso Rabada and Usman Khawaja (6) gloved Keshav Maharaj behind.

The opener's position may have been in jeopardy had he failed with the bat again, but he showed neat footwork against the dangerous Maharaj and hit 10 fours.

He played one positive shot too many in the last over before lunch, though, missing a Maharaj delivery that turned sharply to gift Quinton de Kock a stumping.

Australia added just 60 runs in an attritional afternoon session, during which Smith was caught plumb in front by part-time spinner Elgar, a baffling review proving fruitless for the captain, while Mitchell Marsh (6) and Tim Paine (14) also departed.

It was a similar story after tea, with Shaun Marsh – whose patient knock came off 153 deliveries – clipping Morne Morkel (3-42) to second slip, before the paceman struck again when Starc was undone by Elgar's stunning catch in the covers.

Elgar's reflexes left him in noticeable pain and he immediately left the field for treatment, while there was still time for Morkel to snare Nathan Lyon (2) before bad light stopped play.

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