The Boxing Day Test has resumed on Wednesday with Australia in a dominant position, leading South Africa by 256 runs with three wickets in hand.
The morning has belonged to the Proteas, however, with Anrich Nortje taking two wickets inside two balls in another fiery spell with a newish ball.
Travis Head had reached another half-century, and was then skittled next ball, which brought back to the crease David Warner, who retired hurt on Tuesday on 200 not out.
Warner didn’t last another ball, however, with a full toss beating the left-hander, hitting his pads and deflecting straight onto the stumps.
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Pat Cummins was then out cheaply — DRS dramatically overturned a not out decision for caught behind — leading to Mark Waugh saying that Australia’s innings was suddenly taking a “nosedive”.
Australia is now 7-440 with Alex Carey (26) and Cameron Green (6) at the crease.
“I can’t believe the drama this series is producing,” Ian Smith said in commentary after the Nortje wickets. “Unbelievable scenes.”
Green returned to the crease despite suffering a broken finger on day two after being struck by Nortje (more on this below).
Upon reaching the crease, Adam Gilchrist warned that he is now “fair game” for the Proteas quicks.
Mark Waugh said he was surprised to see Australia not send out Scott Boland first and keep Green safe in the sheds where he wouldn’t be targetted.
“If you happen to get another blow on that finger, that could cause real damage,” Waugh said.
“I’m surprised he’s come out, I’ve got to say. At 258 runs in front, if he’s just going to defend like this, what’s the point? He can only get hit again.”
There have been light showers in Melbourne on Wednesday morning which delayed play until 10.45am AEDT, while play can now continue until 6.15pm local time.
Australia XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland
South Africa XI: Dean Elgar (c), Sarel Erwee, Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Khaya Zondo, Kyle Verreynne (wk), Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi
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Meanwhile, scans have revealed the damage to Cameron Green’s finger — and it’s not great news.
Cricket Australia on Wednesday revealed Green had suffered a small fracture to his right index finger after copping a blow to the glove from Proteas paceman Anrich Nortje, which forced him to retire hurt.
It means Green has been ruled out of next week’s SCG Test against South Africa.
He can bat again in the MCG Test if required, but will not bowl.
The news comes after a special – and timely – batting performance from Warner – hitting his first century in nearly three years with 200 runs in his milestone 100th Test match after being out of form and under intense scrutiny – before retiring due to the extreme heat weather conditions in Melbourne.
Warner wasn’t the only player to go down due to the heat, with Green and Mitchell Starc, who’s already battling a finger injury, also requiring medical attention in an action-packed, sweltering day.
But with Green and potentially Starc also unable to bowl, it could put a dent in Australia’s hopes of bowling Proteas out again.
It’d leave the home side with just three fit bowlers – Pat Cummins, Scott Boland and Nathan Lyon – and give South Africa some glimmer of hope.
Steve Smith also revealed he has been battling the flu, but hopes he hasn’t passed it on to any more team members.
“The advantage already is 197 runs and they’ll stretch that over 300-350. But with a threadbare attack – and this pitch is playing pretty well – we’ll see how much revolve South Africa have,” Kerry O’Keeffe said on Fox Cricket.
“But we’ll know where the tourists are at psychologically and how they handle this second innings against the reduced Australian attack.”
“That‘s going to be a big factor,” South African quick Anrich Nortje said of Australia’s injury worries.
“Once we get to that stage (to bat again) it’s going to be crucial to bat as long as we can. The more overs the bowlers are going to bowl, the more a back-up bowler … would really have to apply themselves.
“That‘s going to be a crucial stage for us and hopefully we can have a lot of batters in hand, and work through the difficult stages all day and then cash in later on.”