South Africa take a stranglehold on first test

Australia's Mitchell Starc, left, celebrates taking the wicket of South Africa's Faf du Plessis on the third day of play during their cricket test match against South Africa in Perth, Australia, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

PERTH, Australia (AP) South Africa took a stranglehold on the first cricket test against Australia after setting the home side a massive 539-run target at the WACA Sunday.

Chasing the unlikely win, Australia was 84-2 at tea on the fourth day with Usman Khawaja and skipper Steve Smith unbeaten on 16 and 11 respectively.

South Africa declared on 540-8, leaving Australia at least 143 overs in four sessions to post the highest ever fourth-innings score to win and take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Australia raced to 52-0 with David Warner kick starting the run-chase with 35 off 33 balls with six fours. But one ball after edging fast bowler Kagiso Rabada perilously over second slip, Warner was run out when an airborne Temba Bavuma scored a direct hit at the bowler's end to catch the opener short of his crease.

Four balls later, opener Shaun Marsh (15) edged Rabada to second slip Dean Elgar as Australia stuttered to 52-2.

Australia could have been in further trouble had Khawaja not successfully challenged a caught behind verdict.

The tourists declared after lunch when Vernon Philander fell for 73, leaving debutant Keshav Maharaj unbeaten on 41 following a 72-run stand for the eighth wicket.

Overnight pair Quinton de Kock (64) and Philander batted untroubled in a 116-run seventh wicket stand as the game gradually got away from Australia.

With the wicket suiting batsmen despite widening cracks, South Africa ground out the Australian attack after starting the day on 390-6.

De Kock, who was the mainstay in South Africa's first innings 242 with a brilliant 84, made a plucky 64 to again thwart Australia's hopes of making early inroads in the tourists' lower order.

Australia came close to dismissing him twice in the first hour when he was adjudged out by the onfield umpire. But the left-hander successfully challenged the caught behind and the lbw on 28 and 47 respectively, much to the dismay of the hosts.

De Kock finally drove uppishly and was well caught by Adam Voges at cover off Mitchell Marsh (2-77). He hit two sixes and five fours off 100 balls in 2 1/2 hours.

Philander batted for three hours and hit two sixes and 10 fours, while Maharaj's 34-ball knock included three sixes and two fours.

This was after Dean Elgar (127) and Jean-Paul Duminy (141) on Saturday shared a 250-run third wicket stand to bat the Proteas to a match-controlling position.