Australia celebrates its win over South Africa in the second Test. (Image: Cricket Australia)

Australia wrapped up its first series win against South Africa on home soil in nearly two decades, completing the job before tea on day four at the MCG.

Mitchell Starc broke the early resistance from the Proteas batters as a collection of poor running between the wickets and a shift from Nathan Lyon helped Australia to victory by an innings and 182 runs, as South Africa was bowled out for 204.

Here are the moments that mattered from the third day of the Boxing Day Test.

Proteas weather early storm before Starc breaks resistance

With a mountain to climb to force Australia into batting again in the match, survival and application were the order of the day for South Africa. The Proteas successfully negotiated through the first three-quarters of an hour in an extended first session on day four.

Theunis de Bruyn was in the action and the battle against the Australian quicks. The batter, who was dropped yesterday in the slips by David Warner, was put down again by Steven Smith, who missed a tough chance at second slip.

Sarel Erwee and de Bruyn had put on 47 runs for the second wicket before Mitchell Starc, broken finger and all, fired right up at the South African number three with a warning to stay in his crease at the non-striker’s end. Starc continued warning de Bruyn, with the exchange picked up by the stump microphone.

The very next ball, Starc trapped Erwee in front but was turned down by umpire Paul Reiffel, with the thought that it had struck the bat first.

Captain Pat Cummins decided to send it upstairs where it was ruled the ball had struck Erwee’s foot before hitting bat and pad. Pitching inline and hitting the stumps, Australia had its first breakthrough of the morning, breaking the tourist’s resistance.

Starc in his next over continued to remind de Bruyn to remain in his crease while at the non-striker’s end but the left armer wouldn’t get the last laugh as Scott Boland got his second innings rolling picking up the right-hander.

De Bruyn edged another one behind in the direction of the slips cordon where Steve Smith, evading a diving Marnus Labuschagne who leapt in front of him, competed his 150th Test catch to break into the Proteas middle order.

Silly cricket sinks South Africa deeper as Bavuma, Verreynne fight

With wickets falling, Cummins took the initiative as skipper and brought himself back on to bowl, sniffing out another breakthrough.

Cummins, rotating his bowlers heavily throughout the day in the absence of Cameron Green after his five-wicket haul on day one, saw an opportunity that his team seized.

Temba Bavuma, one of the more experienced batters in the South African side looked to push a ball to mid-off and set off for the quick single. Birthday boy Travis Head pounced on the ball and under-armed it to the striker’s end, hitting the stumps and catching Khaya Zondo well short of his ground.

Zondo, who was sitting back in his crease as a response to Starc’s prior warnings, was slow off the mark and then ambled through but was nowhere in the frame when the bails were dislodged.

It left South Africa further in a hole, still well over 300 runs in arrears and needing a partnership to resist the procession of wickets.

As he did in the first innings, Kyle Verreynne joined Bavuma and started the counterattack as the pair started to play some shots and get the scoreboard ticking over for the tourists. The pair brought up a 50-run stand as lunch neared.

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Lyon causes a scare as Boland breaks through straight after lunch to start the procession

With forced changes already on the cards for next week’s Test in Sydney, Australia’s heart rates were raised even more when Nathan Lyon appeared to have hurt himself in the field shortly after lunch.

The champion off-spinner, who hasn’t missed a Test match since the 2013 Ashes tour, attempted a flying catch off Kyle Verreynne in the gully and landed heavily on his left shoulder. He rose gingerly, cradling his shoulder and ribs, and left the field for a quick assessment.

A couple of balls later, Boland struck Verreynne on the pads, in front of the stumps, and was given out on field. The South African keeper sent the decision upstairs but was out of luck and burnt a review, leaving the tourists five wickets down.

Lyon returned to the field shortly after and resumed bowling after the drinks break. He was straight back into the action too, dismissing Marco Jansen LBW after a successful review.


More mid-pitch calamities add to the Proteas’ misery as Lyon, Australia wraps it up before tea

Just as it looked as if Bavuma had found himself a partner to keep the Australians at bay as they continued to surge to victory, it would be undone by another piece of calamitous running and communication.

Keshav Maharaj punched a good-length ball through the covers and set off looking for a comfortable three runs. His partner Bavuma, who had already been involved in a terrible piece of running between the wickets leading to a dismissal earlier in the day, turned blind after touching in at the non-striker’s end.

Maharaj was committed to the third run but Bavuma sent him scrambling for his ground after he turned it down.

A direct hit from Mitchell Starc from the bowler’s end after the throw came in from Labuschagne in the field caught Maharaj just short of his ground.

Visibly frustrated, Bavuma came down the wicket the next over to Nathan Lyon trying to bludgeon him into the grandstand but could only send the ball into the waiting hands of Marcus Harris at midwicket, taking a comfortable catch.

Lyon claimed his third for the innings and moved to equal top of the tally for most Test wickets in a calendar year for 2022 when Kagiso Rabada skied a catch to a backtracking Pat Cummins at mid-on.

Steve Smith claimed the final wicket bowling Lungi Ngidi to seal the first series win against South Africa on home soil since 2005/06.

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