Australia will look to take advantage of what promises to be a rain-free day against South Africa on day four of the second Test at the MCG.
The host nation struck early in the Proteas’ second innings as skipper Dean Elgar was dismissed for a duck from just three deliveries after gloving a Pat Cummins delivery to Alex Carey.
South Africa is now 4-74 with Temba Bavuma (18) and Kyle Verreynne (0) at the crease, trailing Australia by 308 runs.
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Mitchell Starc took the first wicket of day four with Sarel Erwee (21) given out lbw after a successful Australian review.
The ball prior to the wicket, a fired up Starc pulled out of bowling and had words with Theunis de Bruyn at the nonstriker’s end, who was leaving his crease early.
Starc appeared to warn the South African about the potential to Mankad him if he was to continue seeking an unfair advantage before the ball was bowled.
“Just stay in your creation. It’s not that hard,” Starc was heard saying on stump mic. “The line’s there for a reason mate.”
Starc was asked about the incident on Fox Cricket shortly after.
“I think he was halfway down Punt Road,” Starc joked. “Just letting him know if I have to keep my foot behind the line he can at least keep his bat behind the line.”
de Bruyn didn’t last much longer with a brilliant Scott Boland delivery finding his outside edge, and Steve Smith completing the catch despite some competition from Marnus Labuschagne at third slip.
It was three wickets in the session when Temba Bavuma called for a suicide single on the arm of Travis Head, who comfortably ran out Khaya Zondo for 1.
“That’s a terrible run. It really is. There was half a single in it and Zondo had given up,” Mark Waugh said on Fox Cricket.
“I think that probably sums up their tour so far. Just mistake after mistake … There’s just no energy or game awareness.”
Two spinners a possibility for Sydney | 01:03
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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All eyes on day four will be on the Australian bowling attack, as Mitchell Starc looks to get through the day with his finger injury.
Starc suffered the blow while fielding during South Africa’s first innings but managed to bowl a number of overs towards the end of day three.
The Aussies will also have to make do without Cameron Green, who sustained a “small fracture” in his index finger when batting.
It means the burden with the ball will no doubt fall upon skipper Cummins, Scott Boland and Nathan Lyon, with the likes of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne likely to chip in with some overs themselves throughout the day.
In positive news for the Australians, however, Josh Hazlewood declared himself fit to play in Sydney as the hosts face the prospect of having no Starc, or Cameron Green at the SCG.
“At this stage I am (ready to play),” he told SEN before play. “I’ve got a few more overs to bowl during this game in the nets, I had a good hit out two days ago.
“All the signs are good and I feel ready and fit.”
Meanwhile, Alex Carey spoke to Fox Cricket before play about his maiden Test century, scored on Wednesday.
But he also responded to a well-known freak stat about his upturn — since accidentally walking into a pool in Karachi in March, Carey is averaging more than 70 in Test cricket, more than any other Australian.
“There’s something in the water in Pakistan,” Carey told Mark Howard.
“Hopefully I don’t ever fall out of form but, if I do, I might have to get a trip to Karachi.”