Warner goes big in 100th Test to give Australia huge lead
SUMMARY: Australia 386-3 (David Warner 200 retd. hurt, Steve Smith 85; Anrich Nortje 1-50) lead South Africa 189 (Marco Jansen 59, Kyle Verreynne 52; Cameron Green 5-27, Mitchell Starc 2-13) by 197 runs
David Warner brought the MCG to its feet not once, but twice as he went from milestone to milestone in the second and third sessions to score a scintillating double century on Day Two of the Boxing Day Test.
After an emotional celebration after getting to 200 off 254 balls – with 16 fours and two sixes – Warner had to be helped off the field due to cramps and retired hurt. Besides this, South Africa only managed two wickets on an unforgiving day on the field as Australia ended it with a lead of 197.
The one dampener for Australia on an otherwise day of complete domination was the finger injury to Cameron Green in the final session that forced him to retire hurt as well.
Warner left behind all the tentative energy he batted with at the end of Day One to take the game by the scruff of its neck on Day Two. He cut Kagiso Rabada for a four past point early in the day that laid down the marker for what was to come from the left-hander.
The first of the two wickets that South Africa picked came as a lucky break when Warner and Marnus Labuschagne didn’t communicate well on pinching an extra run on an overthrow.
Even as Warner hesitated after covering two-thirds of the pitch on the second, Labuschagne went for an impossible sprint and sacrificed his wicket. The Australia opener ensured the sacrifice didn’t go in vain as he carried the hosts on his broad shoulders from there.
While he took the wheel, he also had Steve Smith for company who equally frustrated a bowling attack that was tiring out in the heat. Keshav Maharaj worked as a much-needed replacement for the quicks while they got some rest, but that’s the only cushion the spinner could provide as Australia’s third-wicket pair seemed unbreakable.
During the course of this stand, Warner played out a hostile spell of bowling from Nortje and became the 10th player in the world to hit a century in his 100th Test appearance.
Bowling at the other end didn’t come as a respite for South Africa either, as Steve Smith too grew into the stand in the second session. The duo went on to add an undefeated stand of 156 – their fifth partnership over 100 – to earn Australia a first-innings lead by the Tea break.
Smith and Warner further flattened an already deflated South Africa early in the final session too, picking 64 runs in the first eight overs, shared between Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj.
Dean Elgar turned to his hardest working bowler of the day – Nortje, who kept hitting speeds of over 140-145kmph consistently in testing climes.
After a 16-run over off Maharaj, where Warner smashed a four and a six to get into the 190s, Nortje ended the partnership. Smith was well on his way to his 30th Test hundred but played a loose shot against a short ball from Nortje and found Theunis de Bruyn at gully.
In the company of Travis Head, Warner raised his double-century, celebrated in trademark style and then walked off the field due to the cramps that had troubled him since the second session.
Head, in the company of Cameron Green, didn’t let this period of play come as a turning point for South Africa as he quickly picked up boundaries against Ngidi and Maharaj.
When Elgar took the new ball and threw it to Marco Jansen, Head went after the left-armer too – flicking one leg side ball for a six and driving another through midwicket for a four. Nortje operated with the new ball from the other end and a short ball from him hit Green flush on the right glove and caused a lot of discomfort.
After a check from the physio, Green walked off with a bleeding finger on the right hand – depleting Australia’s bowling resources further after Starc’s injury in the first session has ruled him out of bowling again in this fixture.
Head maintained his tempo in the company of another new batter – Alex Carey – against South Africa’s misfiring bowling attack to finish the day on a run-a-ball 48 that pushed the hosts to 386-3. (cricbuzz)