Alex Carey’s maiden Test century helped Australia to a monster lead of 386 over South Africa on day three of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, as Australia amassed 8-575 before declaring.
With Mitchell Starc and first-innings hero Cameron Green both battling injuries to their bowling hands, Australia needed a big lead to defend and then made a hot start when Pat Cummins removed South Africa captain Dean Elgar with his third ball.
Cummins bowled in concert with regular opener Mitchell Starc, who regularly tipped the speed gun above 140 kilometres per hour despite sporting a blackened nail on the middle finger of his left bowling hand.
Starc kept plugging away even as he bloodied up a towel, his whites and strapping tape around his digit, which was injured while trying to take a catch in the deep on day one.
It helped them restrict South Africa to 1-15 off seven overs, still 371 runs from forcing Australia to even bat again, before rain and bad light brought an early end to play on day three.
Carey was also supported by an injured teammate, Green, who scored an anchoring 51 off 171 with a broken right index finger as his wicketkeeper powered to three figures for the first time in his 14-Test career.
Not out overnight, most of the expectations for a century were on batting partner Travis Head, who was unbeaten on 48 heading into Wednesday’s play.
He passed 50 in the third over of the day but Anrich Nortje bowled him off the next ball, prompting raucous cheers as David Warner re-emerged down the race after retiring hurt on 200 with cramp and heat exhaustion on day two.
Warner received a similarly warm exit immediately after as he was clean bowled off his first ball.
Nortje was unable to complete his hat-trick, but Kagiso Rabada got into the action four balls later when he found the edge of Cummins’s bat, a not-out on-field decision overturned on review thanks to the thinnest of edges picked up on snicko.
Nathan Lyon entertained for half an hour, playing his shots to make a rapid 25 from just 17 balls before mis-hitting a hook to Khaya Zondo at mid-wicket.
Lyon had proved the perfect foil to Alex Carey, whose stroke play dazzled the crowd as he raced to a fourth Test 50 with some sumptuous drives.
Somewhat surprisingly, Green was next man in, resuming his innings after retiring hurt on day two when a Nortje short ball drew blood from the index finger on his bowling hand.
Green received a thorough examination of his fractured finger and was rapped right on it by Marco Jansen as a matter of course, drawing more blood from the Australian all-rounder’s battered digit early on.
Carey notched his first Test century with a cut through cover, reaching the milestone off 133 balls as Green celebrated almost as much as if it were he who scored a century.
The late Rod Marsh is the only other wicketkeeper to score a century in Tests at the MCG, with 110 in the Centenary Test of 1977 against England, while only five other Australian glovemen have a Test century to their names.
Carey was eventually dismissed for 111, caught and bowled by Jansen as he looked to accelerate, but still Australia did not declare, with Starc heading out to the middle despite his injured finger.
The entire Test match at the Gabba lasted 144.2 overs — Australia’s batting innings at the MCG passed that and still Australia batted on.
Even Starc, after being hit on the helmet with a bouncer, mouthed that he thought Australia should be bowling by now, with Australia’s skipper finally heeding calls for a declaration, calling his side in with a lead of 386 and marking an early tea break.
With the lights on and the wind howling around a chilly MCG, in stark contrast to the baking vista of day two, South Africa’s openers struggled, with Sarel Erwee and Theunis de Bruyn to return with the tourists in all sorts of trouble heading into day four.
Desiree is a research journalist working performing her duties as chief editor at this news station. She is a talented writer and comes up with facts everybody wants to know.