Australia has wrapped up its three-Test showdown with South Africa in straight-sets, completing a comprehensive innings victory at the MCG on day four.
Cameron Green turned in arguably his finest all-round Test performance to date, Alex Carey scored his maiden Test ton, while under-fire David Warner saved arguably his finest ever innings for his 100th Test.
Nonetheless, there are still some gaps in Australia’s dominance that will make for some ugly reading.
Here’s how every Australian performed in the Boxing Day Test.
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DAVID WARNER — 10
An instantly iconic innings. Have any of his 25 Test centuries typified the man better? Warner’s back was firmly against the wall heading to Melbourne, and then, in oppressive heat that went on to completely take his legs, the left-hander plundered a double century in his 100th Test. From the moment Kagiso Rabada’s entire first over drifted down leg side, you got the sense that it could be a different story for Warner, who had struggled in Test matches all year to that point. He looked far more positive at the crease, ran between the wickets at an elite level, and hit out brilliantly when his legs gave way. If you wanted to poke holes, there were a few sketchy cross-bat strokes to balls on a narrow line that might’ve cost him his wicket sooner. Anrich Nortje also looked to have him in all sorts in the nineties, sending down what Warner later described as the fastest spell he ever faced. In truth, very few batters would have been able to deal with it better. What an innings. What a moment. Even torching Marnus Labuschagne and two drops in the second innings can’t cost him a perfect 10 — his first one in Test cricket in a long, long time.
USMAN KHAWAJA — 0.5
Spare a thought for Usman Khawaja. Every Aussie has been piling on the runs this summer but the left-hander is yet to crack that big score despite a couple strong starts against the West Indies. In fact, his average this series against South Africa is now just 5.00 after he once again fell cheaply to Kagiso Rabada. Rabada has taken Khawaja’s wicket five times now in Test cricket. Khawaja’s footwork was left wanting as Rabada found the right line outside off and tickled the Aussie’s outside edge. Khawaja didn’t get a chance to bat again, leaving no choice but to hand out a grim score.
MARNUS LABUSCHAGNE — 3
Marnus Labuschagne provided one of the most influential contributions of the entire Test — and it had nothing to do with his batting. Labuschagne had run through for a single and continued to stride well beyond the crease, without the knowledge that Warner had turned to come back for a second run. He was long odds to get down the other end, but Labuschagne went for it instead of sending Warner back in his 100th Test. It ultimately cost him his wicket, and a good score in these ratings, but allowed Warner to deliver a memorable innings. He gets an extra mark for his selflessness.
STEVE SMITH — 7.5
The runs continue to flow this summer for Steve Smith, although it wasn’t his most fluent innings. He was a little scratchy to begin with but grew into the knock to the point he looked sure to follow Warner in going past three figures. His dismissal really did feel like it came out of nowhere. A drinks break can sometimes do that. Nortje bowled short and Smith only succeeded in upper cutting it straight to gully in a disappointing dismissal. His catching in the slips was on point yet again while his three overs in the second innings weren’t half-bad either.
TRAVIS HEAD — 6
Yet another half-century for the left-hander — and it was once again scored in his trademark, quick fashion. Head went on the attack with Warner late on day one, and then continued the charge after his batting partner was forced to retire hurt. He looked like he was in for a big one himself the following day when he notched his fourth fifty of the summer, but to everyone’s surprise, he got out the very next ball. It was a great delivery from Anrich Nortje in another fiery spell, but Head could have played straight instead of trying to score more runs through the on-side. Picks up an extra half-point for a sharp run-out in the second innings.
CAMERON GREEN — 9
Fresh from earning $3.15 million at the glitzy IPL Auction, Cameron Green rolled up his sleeves and got dirty at the MCG in a workmanlike display. In the first innings with the ball, he claimed his maiden five-wicket haul, snaring a brilliant 5-27. Among those five wickets was Kyle Verreynne and Marco Jansen, who both posted half-centuries in a 112-run partnership before Green blew it up. Then the rest followed cheaply. Green broke his finger while batting and retired hurt. The next day he returned to the crease and defended stoutly to allow Carey to make a century. The Proteas had no answer for Green who was unbeaten across 177 balls — his longest Test innings to date. Surely would have pushed a perfect 10 if he was fit to bowl in the second innings.
ALEX CAREY — 9
If there was any doubt before, there can be none now. Alex Carey is locked in long-term as Australia’s wicketkeeper. He came into the role amid hot competition from Josh Inglis, and after some middling scores and sketchy glovework, questions remained over his spot. But Carey’s performances have been trending northwards for months now, culminating in his maiden Test ton on Wednesday. His 111 from 149 balls helped Australia post an important, massive first innings lead. What’s more is that Carey barely offered the Proteas a sniff in a truly classy display that came despite the chaos around him, with uncertainty at the time over the batting ability of the exhausted Warner, and the injured Green and Starc. There can be no complaints with the gloves either. A true breakout Test performance for the South Australian.
PAT CUMMINS — 8
0-30 and 1-20
He certainly didn’t get the rewards in the wicket column, but Pat Cummins was strong in both innings in Melbourne. The Proteas struggled to get him away all Test with the captain displaying both great control with the ball as well as an aggression the South Africans lacked. He was hit for just over two runs-an-over in the first innings, while that was closer to just one run-a-over in the second. It was Cummins who set the tone in the second innings by dismissing Dean Elgar early — albeit cheaply. As captain, his bold, bowl-first decision was vindicated, while his declaration in the first innings might’ve seemed a little late, but it mattered little. He was largely good in using his reviews, especially when choosing not to review in the first innings with a number of close calls. He remains undefeated in a Test series as Australia’s captain.
MITCHELL STARC — 7.5
2-39 and 1-62
That was a warrior like performance from the left-armer. Starc was reliable in the first innings as he picked up two wickets in a tidy display. However, he injured the middle finger of his bowling hand while trying to take a catch. Nonetheless, with Green unable to bowl in the second innings, Starc took some painkillers and dug deep despite blood visibly coming from his finger. His pace was still somewhere around 140km/h and he was swinging the ball early. Had rain not stopped play early on day three, you sense he was going to take a couple wickets before stumps. Nonetheless, he made the breakthrough the following day and grinded it out for his country.
NATHAN LYON — 7
1-53 and 3-58
Didn’t have much joy in the first innings with his only wicket being Keshav Maharaj, who took the bait from a flighted delivery. As is standard, he played a bigger role in the second innings and produced a solid spell. He hurt his left shoulder in the field but returned soon after and dismissed Marco Jansen, one of South Africa’s better batters this series. The Proteas just got sloppier and sloppier from there, and Lyon was happy to clean up.
SCOTT BOLAND — 7
1-34 and 2-49
It was hardly 6-7 at the ‘G but this was another strong performance from Boland at his home ground. In truth, there were no real standouts among the Australian bowlers with everyone playing their part. That includes Boland who claimed 1-34 in the first innings and backed that up with 2-49 in the second. That included a brilliant delivery to Theunis de Bruyn that took off from just short of a length and had the right-hander in strife. Unsurprisingly, Boland’s control was fantastic throughout.