(CNN) -- An unbroken 72-run partnership between Brad Haddin and debutant Marcus North helped Australia reach 254 for five when bad light and rain ended day one of the first Test against South Africa.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting scored an impressive 83 to help his side fight back in the first Test.
It capped a good fightback in Johannesburg from the tourists, who earlier had captain Ricky Ponting and his deputy Michael Clarke to thank for instigating the recovery.
Half-centuries from Ponting and Clarke had helped the team recover from the loss of three early wickets, two of which came from the impressive Dale Steyn, to reach 151 for three.
Australia were in more trouble after the pair departed within a short space of time, leaving them at 182 with half the team out shortly before tea, but North (47 not out) looked at home in his first match at the highest level and together with Haddin (37 not out) took the tourists team to the close without any further damage.
Earlier, Steyn's burst set Australia on the back foot as he struck with the fourth delivery of the day to remove another debutant, Phil Hughes, for a duck, before a stunning catch from Neil McKenzie helped him dismiss Simon Katich for three in the ninth over.
Ponting had won the toss and his side decided to go with the all-round ability of Andrew McDonald, while the team also featured three debutants in Hughes, North and Ben Hilfenhaus.
That made it the first time since 1985 against India that three Australia players had been awarded their first caps in the same game.
But Hughes found himself in a tangle when he tried to lift a rising Steyn delivery over the slips and only succeeded in under-edging a simple chance to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.
Ponting was in next and took the score to 18 with Katich, who was next to go when he tried to steer another Steyn delivery to third man and was snapped by a brilliant diving catch by McKenzie at gully.
Michael Hussey followed not long after when he edged Morne Morkel to Jacques Kallis at second slip for four, leaving the Australians reeling at 38 for three.
It could have been four down at lunch, but in Steyn's final over home captain Graeme Smith could not hold a simple chance at first slip that would have had his opposite number Ponting out for 40.
It was 78 for three at the interval and Ponting brought up his fifty in the second over after lunch. The experienced pair brought up their century stand in just under 25 overs but, just as Ponting was looking good for a century, he misjudged an inswinging Ntini delivery, which cut back in and brushed his pads en route to taking the stumps for 83.
Clarke and North added 31 for the fourth wicket, before the former found it hard to resist a wide delivery from Steyn and edged an easy catch to Boucher for 68.
North and Haddin remained firm though, taking the score to 194 at tea, and then negotiated the shortened 75-minute final session without further damage.
Steyn was the pick of the bowlers, picking up three for 82 in 19 overs, while Morkel with one for 65 and Ntini with one for 53 claimed the other two wickets.