Alex Carey salutes the MCG after registering his maiden Test century on Day 3 of the Boxing Day Test. (Image: @espncricinfo/ Twitter)

Alex Carey was the story on day three of the Boxing Day Test, with the wicketkeeper registering his first Test century.

The South Australian combined with Cameron Green for a 100-plus run stand for the eighth wicket to bat South Africa almost completely out of the game, setting the tourists a target of 387 to make Australia bat again as they declared their first innings at 8/575.

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

Nortje rips through Head, Warner to give the Proteas some life

Rain slightly delayed the start of play on the third morning as confirmation came through of an injury blow to Australia. Cameron Green, who was struck by Anrich Nortje yesterday was confirmed to have a broken index finger and was ruled out of the New Years’ Test at the SCG next week. The news meant that when Australia returned to the field, they would be two bowlers short.

When play resumed it was Anrich Nortje again, who bowled his heart out yesterday and took it upon himself to inspire his team on a new day.

Straight away after Travis Head raised his bat again this summer, Nortje ripped through the South Australian dasher, with a fuller ball smashing into his off stump. David Warner walked out to resume his innings after his heroics yesterday but they would be short-lived today as he was undone by a 147kph thunderbolt by Nortje. Bowling from the Members end, Nortje aimed at leg stump with Warner looking to work it off his pads but was beaten for pace.

Nortje was desperately unlucky to miss out on his hat trick with Pat Cummins exposing all three stumps and just getting his bat down in time to fend it away. The skipper’s stay at the crease was short-lived though, with Rabada finding his edge through to Verreynne which was overturned on review.

Lyon, Carey cameos swing back momentum and morning flurry

With Australia’s lower order set upon by injury, Nathan Lyon walked out to bat at the fall of the sixth wicket. With Australia so far ahead in the game, the spinner had a license to swing the bat and play freely.

Lyon joined Carey in the middle and looked at ease. Hooking and driving his way to the boundary in support of Alex Carey who was looking more and more settled with every passing delivery, despite having watched the carnage at the other end earlier in the morning.

Lyon fell attempting one pull shot too many, a short ball from Lungi Ngidi hitting the splice of the bat and spooning up to Khaya Zondo at square leg. The wicket brought Cameron Green, with his broken finger, back to the crease to be the support act for Alex Carey as he continued to build Australia’s lead.

Three exquisite drives to the boundary off Ngidi brought up Test match 50 number four for the South Australian wicketkeeper, who continued to attack with the support of Green at the other end as the pair continued to bat time.

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Carey reaches maiden century as lead grows beyond 300

Resuming after lunch, Carey and Green continued to bat the tourists out of the game completely as the lead grew beyond the 300-run mark. Both batters resumed after the interval looking more circumspect and content to spend time in the middle accumulating at will, as Carey neared his first Test century.

He swept his way through the 80s and 90s before driving through the covers, as he had done so brilliantly all innings to reach the milestone. He became the first Australian wicketkeeper since Brad Haddin in 2013 to score a Test century and the first Australian wicketkeeper ever to make a Boxing Day Test century.

The milestone comes as an exclamation point for Carey’s year in international cricket. After a promising debut Ashes series with the gloves, Carey elevated his game in 2022 with the bat, becoming a valuable contributor down the order, notably in Pakistan and Hobart.

His batting partner Cameron Green, raised his arms in the air as Carey completed the shot in celebration as the pair crossed over the 100-run partnership for the 8th wicket before Marco Jansen finally dislodged Carey for 111.

Mitchell Starc came out to bat for a quick dash to assist Cameron Green to his half-century before Pat Cummins called them in at 8/575d, setting South Africa the task of scoring 387 to make Australia bat again.

Starc opens up as Cummins makes an early breakthrough

After he was ruled out of his home Test match next week with a broken finger, Mitchell Starc was the one to open the bowling for Australia. The hosts, already one bowler down with Cameron Green ruled out of bowling with a broken index finger, Starc was ruled by the medical staff to be able to bowl through the innings if required, and there he was as he so often does, taking the new ball.

The skipper shared the new ball and got straight into his work, strangling his opposite number, the South African captain Dean Elgar down the leg side for a third ball duck. It’s the second time that Elgar had been dismissed in that way, having been dismissed in a similar fashion at the Gabba in the first Test.

It was Cummins’ first wicket of the match, having not taken a wicket in the first innings. He nearly had a second but David Warner spilled a chance at first slip off the bat of de Bruyn.

Rain brought an early end to the day with South Africa 1/15 at Stumps on Day three.

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