The Boxing Day Test is upon us, unfortunately for the visitors, the poor batting display shown in Brisbane looks like it might not have been the aberration many suspected.
The Australians once again won the toss and opted to field, and it proved to be the right decision, with early wickets falling through Aussie brilliance in the field and a lack of application from the South African batters.
A late-innings fightback threatened to place the Proteas with a healthy, defendable total before a young Aussie quick delivered a career-defining spell to put the home side well on top.
Here are the moments that mattered from the opening day of the Boxing Day Test.
Marnus makes his mark – in the field
So often it is Marnus Labuschagne delivering the goods for the Aussies with the bat that we sometimes forgot he can be just as brilliant in the field.
That’s exactly what he displayed on Day One of the Boxing Day Test with one of the all-time great catches coupled with a sensational run out to remove the South African skipper.
In what was a diabolical decision to take on Labuschagne, Dean Elgar elected to take a quick single after almost giving away his wicket the previous ball. Labuschagne then swooped and almost in the same motion delivered a pinpoint throw to the non-striker’s end to see the Proteas’ skipper off.
While that was a moment of sheer brilliance, his best was yet to come.
Completing a fabulous day in the field, the South African-born Australian pounced on a lofted off-drive, taking the ball while he was horizontal in the air in a display reminiscent of his compatriot, the great Jonty Rhodes.
The catch has to be seen to be believed.
More Protea pain with the bat
It was no surprise to any avid cricket lover that the Brisbane Test was over well before the five-day threshold given the state of the wicket, but few would have expected a similar visitor collapse at the Boxing Day Test given the importance of the game.
Unfortunately for South Africa, it was more of the same at the MCG with poor running between the wickets compounded by relentless pressure from the Australian bowlers leading to yet another daunting hole that the tail would have to dig themselves out of.
In fact, the Proteas were five wickets down before they even reached triple figures, showcasing yet again how the top order’s lack of productivity has cost the visitors any chance of building a strong foundation in which to challenge the number-one ranked test side.
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Late fightback breathes life into spluttering innings
Five wickets fell before the visitors even registered triple figures on day one of the Boxing Day Test, but a key partnership between Kyle Verreynne and Marco Jansen frustrated the Aussies in the field and gave the Proteas hope that this might not be a futile endeavour after all.
The pair came in at a precarious position of 5-67, needing to build a strong partnership to help break the stranglehold the Australians had on the Test and that’s exactly what they did. The pair combined for over 100 runs, each scoring crucial half-centuries when it was needed most.
Cameron Green was able to break up the partnership an hour after the tea break (4.30 pm local time), but not before the pair were able to add 112 runs to the total.
The Test match is still firmly in Australia’s grasp, but a respectable late-innings partnership added some much-needed respectability to an otherwise poor South African showing.
Shane Warne tribute fit for The King
The MCG was his colosseum and he captivated the Melbourne masses as few could, but today it was the Boxing Day crowd’s turn to deliver Shane Warne a fitting tribute that summed up the man and mythos of Warnie.
At 3.50 pm – to correspond with his Test cap number – all the fans around the ground erupted, feverishly chanting “Warnie” and almost in unison doing the iconic hat removal and bow that has become the signature salute for the great SK Warne.
Something tells us Warnie would have looked down with a smile on his face knowing he can still hold the MCG in the palm of his hand.
May Shane Warne’s legacy live on forever.
Cameron Green the conqueror
Just when it looked like South Africa had found its way back into the Boxing Day Test, Cameron Green stepped up with the ball, delivering a withering display that nullified any potential Protea powerplay.
The 23-year-old shredded the South African lower order with career-best figures of 5/27 in the biggest sign yet he is ready to ascend to cricketing superstardom.
Australia has been crying out for an all-rounder to play the ‘Freddie Flintoff’ role for almost two decades, today Green might have finally showcased why so many believe he’s the heir apparent.
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