Pace trio baptism settles Doolan

CRICKET

Alex Doolan looked calm and classy on Test debut, but he admits South Africa's quicks ensured that wasn't the case.

Doolan must wait to learn whether his performances at No 3 - a nervy 27 in the first innings and far more fluent 89 in the second dig of Australia's resounding win at Centurion - will be enough to retain his spot, as all-rounder Shane Watson tries to prove his fitness for a return.

Doolan's second-innings efforts on a difficult Centurion wicket, in which he shared a partnership of 205 runs with David Warner, are sure to serve him well at the selection table.

Michael Clarke suggested Doolan would not play a tougher innings in his career.

The Tasmanian was honest enough to admit that facing up to world-class pace trio Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel had been a big step up in class.

"It's probably the most uncomfortable I've felt in an innings consistently, because there was just no let-up," he said.

"I can't put my finger on any certain point where I felt comfortable at all. These guys are relentless.

"It's never easy going out there at any stage."

But Doolan said he was well prepared for his task, having faced Australia's devastating paceman Mitchell Johnson and his allies Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle in the lead-up.

"We've got the best attack in the world at the moment and they are certainly proving that. To be able to face those guys in the nets and sharpen your skills is just priceless," he said.

Doolan's combination with Johnson extended beyond the nets - he snatched two sharp catches at short leg off the left-arm quick to cap a fine Test debut.

And the 28-year-old said Johnson's pace helped prepare him for the grabs that removed Graeme Smith and JP Duminy in the second innings.

"When he's bowling that fast, you know something's coming your way," Doolan said of Johnson's 150km/h-plus pace.

"It can be a little bit frightening and intimidating for me, standing at bat pad.

"I'm not sure how the batsmen are feeling, but it really is something else, watching the ball go past at that speed."

Doolan, on his maiden national cricket tour, is one game away from boosting Australia to their first Test series win on foreign soil since they knocked over the West Indies in April 2012.

He said expectation was the biggest difference between first-class and Test cricket, but he tried to use it as motivation.

Steyn, Philander and Morkel were probing but not unplayable at Centurion - commentators pointed to injury niggles and the fact that the Proteas had played only four Tests while Australia battled England 10 times.

It raises questions of the potency of the Proteas' attack, and how they will fare trying to take 20 wickets in the Second Test starting on Thursday in Port Elizabeth.

If the Proteas slump to another defeat in the upcoming clash, it will trigger their first Test-series loss since 2009.

Australia enjoyed an extra rest day after wrapping up the First Test on day four and were to leave Johannesburg last night. AAP

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