The Bull’s back.
David Warner has become just the second cricketer to score a double-century in their 100th Test match, cracking an unbeaten 200 before retiring hurt on day two of the Boxing Day Test against South Africa at the MCG.
The veteran opener and Steve Smith combined for a 239-run partnership for the third wicket to embarrass the demoralised Proteas and guide Australia towards 3-386 at stumps.
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‘FAIRYTALES COME TRUE’: David Warner passes five Test records and ‘winds back clock’ in epic ton
‘VERY, VERY EMOTIONAL’: Instantly iconic scenes as David Warner’s body ‘shuts down’ after double ton
It was Warner’s first Test century since January 2020, breaking an agonising 1086-day drought and silencing his critics following a disappointing couple of years in Australian whites.
The left-hander battled Melbourne’s scorching heat throughout the afternoon, with temperatures in the Victorian capital exceeding 36 degrees on Tuesday.
“It was pretty energy-sapping, it was pretty hot,” Smith told reporters at stumps.
“Boys were cramping left, right and centre.”
Warner’s double-century celebration was marred by a comical cramp that prematurely ended his marathon knock. His knee buckled following the trademark Toyota jump, forcing him to retire hurt and gingerly limp off the ground in immense discomfort.
It was an anticlimactic conclusion to an extraordinary innings, but Warner thankfully avoided serious injury.
The 36-year-old’s epic performance quickly drew comparisons to Steve Waugh’s SCG century in 2003, responding to adversity with a career-defining performance that will talked about for decades to come.
Australia resumed day two on 1-45, still trailing the South Africans by 144 runs, before a cataclysmic mix-up between Marnus Labuschagne and Warner gifted the South Africans their only wicket of the morning session.
Both batters ended up at the same end after Warner scampered through for a second run following an overthrow, with Labuschagne sacrificing his wicket and returning to the sheds for 14. It was Labuschagne’s fifth run out in Tests, the most for any cricketer since his international debut October 2018.
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Smith was handed an early reprieve on 9 when Proteas wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne put down a tough chance low to his left after the Australian gloved a Marco Jansen delivery down the leg side. It proved a costly miss.
After lunch, a captivating battle between Warner and South African quick Anrich Norte had the 42,614 spectators at the edge of their seat, but the New South Welshman survived the pace barrage, reaching is 25th Test century with a glance off the hip towards the fine leg boundary.
Warner leapt in the air and saluted the crowd, which had risen to its feet. Chants of “Warner, Warner, Warner” echoed across from Bay 13 as he blew a kiss towards the media box.
“He played exceptionally well from ball one yesterday,” Smith said.
“He played beautifully. The more he started to cramp the more shots he started to play and everything seemed to be coming out of the middle. It was an amazing knock and nice to be up the other end for a large chunk of it.”
Warner picked up the tempo after the tea break, switching to white-ball mode and attacking South Africa’s weary bowlers. He took a particular liking to Keshav Maharaj’s spin, targeting the tweaker in the evening session and forcing Proteas captain Dean Elgar to put five players on the boundary rope.
The visitors were completely out of ideas.
South Africa finally unearthed a breakthrough in the 75th over when Smith guided a short ball from Nortje directly towards the gully fielder, dejectedly returning to the sheds for 85.
But Warner continued on his merry way, bringing up his double-century in 254 deliveries before sinking to his knees and pumping his fists into the sky.
However, the ensuing leap in the air proved more than his body would cope with.
Travis Head provided some late fireworks, smacking a flurry of boundaries before Cameron Green was struck on the finger, drawing blood as team medics rushed back onto the field.
Green, who was later sent for scans, became the second Australian to retire hurt in less than an hour, bringing wicketkeeper Alex Carey to the middle. The hosts now have three players in the casualty ward, with Mitchell Starc suffering a finger injury of his own 24 hours earlier.
South African bowler Lungi Ngidi joined the trio soon after, limping off the field with less than 10 minutes remaining in the day due to cramp.
Head (48 not out) and Carey (9 not out) survived the final passage of play, ending a bizarre yet entertaining day of Test cricket.
“Obviously a pretty strange finish to the day; it’s hard to believe I was the last wicket,” Smith laughed.
“I was looking up and Nathan Lyon was padded up to me and we were three down, so it was an interesting finish.”
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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