Australia 386 for 3 (Head 48, Carey 9) lead South Africa 189 by 197 runs
An epic David Warner innings in his milestone match. A 239-run partnership with Steven Smith, who brought up 1,000 runs at the MCG A scoring rate of 4.3 runs per over in the day, which peaked at 5.54 in the final session, in temperatures that touched 40 degrees. This was Australia’s day.
They seized control of the Melbourne Test and the series and are on track to beat South Africa at home for the first time since the 2005-06 summer.
Before the Test, amid questions over his long-format future, Warner promised to return to his old self and take on the bowling and he stayed true to his word. From his opening runs on the second day – a square cut off Kagiso Rabada’s first ball – to his final runs when an edge flew wide of slip and brought up his 200, Warner took the fight to South Africa. He became the second batter to score a double hundred in his 100th Test after Joe Root in a display of extreme determination, strong strokeplay and incredible fitness.
In a minute less than six hours at the crease, Warner ran 63 singles, 14 twos, seven threes and three fours, in addition to the 16 fours and two sixes he hit. No South African bowler was spared but Warner asserted his authority over their spearhead Rabada with such assurance, it would not have given the rest much confidence. He scored 57 runs off the 60 balls he faced from Rabada and 72 off 81 from Keshav Maharaj.
On a track that flattened out beautifully for batting, South Africa’s attack were never in the contest and may have some stern words for their line-up, who wasted the opportunity on the first day. Anrich Nortje was the most impressive of an energy-sapped pack and kept his pace above 150kph consistently. His fastest ball was clocked at 155kph. He was also the only one to enjoy some reward, when Smith upper cut a short ball to gully. By then, most of the damage was done.
Smith and Warner put on the second-highest third-wicket stand by Australia against South Africa, after Marnus Labuschagne was run-out in the morning session. Smith was less fluent than usual but still managed to cash in on loose deliveries as the attack grew weary. But his time with Warner was not without its chances.
Lungi Ngidi found Warner’s edge with his third ball, but it flew past gully for four and Marco Jansen drew Smith forward and got a healthy nick, but it fell short of second slip. Then, Smith offered a genuine chance when he gloved Jansen down leg. Kyle Verreynne made good ground to his left but could not hold on before Warner inside edged Ngidi past the stumps.
All those half-chances meant nothing when Warner reached 8,000 Test runs and then went on to bring up his hundred with a pull off Rabada. He celebrated with a jump and air punch. Rabada thought he had Smith before the former captain reached fifty but overstepped on the delivery Smith appeared to glove on the pull although replays were inconclusive. Smith brought up fifty soon after, with a cut past point off Jansen.
Australia led by 42 runs at tea and and accelerated in the final session. They scored 83 runs in 11 overs in the post tea session – and 155 in 28 in total – as they ripped into Ngidi and Rabada. Both bowled a little too short in search of a wicket. Smith looked well on his way to a century of his own before Nortje got the better of him, with Warner eight runs away from a double hundred and starting to cramp severely.
He seemed to barely have the energy to keep going but the motivation of a double ton kept him at the crease until he was able to reach for a wide Ngidi delivery and it flew off the edge to the boundary. His second hundred came off just 110 balls. Warner dropped to his haunches and raised both arms in a double salute but he struggled to get back up. Once he’d made his way to stand, he was helped off the field to an ovation from the 40,000 strong crowd. If he does not return to bat, his will be the highest individual innings in Test cricket to end retired hurt.
South Africa took the second new ball as soon as it became available and it was shared by Nortje and Jansen. While Nortje asked questions again, Jansen only seemed easier to hit. As he searched for swing, Travis Head flicked him over square leg for six and then four and raced to a run-a-ball 48.
Australia are likely to continue to bat for as long as they can, especially as their attack could be depleted for the second innings. Mitchell Starc injured his left middle-finger while fielding on the first day and will bowl only if required while Cameron Green was hit on the right index finger by Jansen while batting and it immediately swelled up. Green also retired hurt which could leave Australia with only Pat Cummins, Scott Boland and Nathan Lyon to close out the match.
(Story from ESPNcricinfo by Firoose Moonda)