David Warner’s first red-ball century in almost three years has powered Australia to a 42-run lead over a lacklustre South Africa in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
Warner put a poor 2022 behind him, racing to an unbeaten 135 as Australia flew past the Proteas’ first-innings total of 189 and reached 2-231 by tea on day two.
The veteran opener picked the right match to return to form, becoming the second Australian after Ricky Ponting in 2006 to score a century in his 100th Test.
Warner entered the match under extreme pressure after averaging just 20.61 this year, but he was able to produce a trademark innings for his 25th Test century and first since January 2020 against New Zealand.
The 36-year-old and fellow Australia great Steve Smith (60 no) have put on a 156-run partnership to pile more misery upon South Africa in hot conditions.
The Proteas, who were demolished in two days at the Gabba last week, are heading for their first Test series loss in Australia since 2005-06 after succeeding in their previous three trips down under.
South Africa’s inexperienced batting line-up has not given their fearsome pace attack of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen anywhere near enough runs to defend.
Smith was fortunate to still be batting at lunch after being dropped by Proteas wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne on nine.
South Africa’s giant left-armer Marco Jansen got Australia’s No.4 to deflect a ball off his glove, but Verreynne was unable to hang onto a diving catch to his left.
Verreynne, who scored a vital 52 on Monday to add to an impressive 64 in Brisbane, put down a regulation catch off Warner on 122.
The only wicket of the day fell in the first session when Marnus Labuschagne was run-out for the fifth time in his 32-Test career.
The world’s No.1-ranked batsman departed for 14 after a stop-start mix-up between the wickets with Warner.
The pair set off for an overthrow run after South Africa returned the ball past Verreynne behind the stumps.
But Labuschagne made the mistake of stopping for a split second, before trying to complete the extra run, and was caught well short.
A rare bright spot for the Proteas was fiery quick Anrich Nortje regularly bowling deliveries clocking more than 150km/h.
However, Nortje was involved in a bizarre incident when the host broadcaster’s spider cam collided with him.
Nortje was knocked over by the hit from the camera but was not hurt and he continued to field.
Centuries in 100th Test
- Colin Cowdrey (Eng) 104 v Australia, 1968
- Javed Miandad (Pak) 145 v India, 1989
- Gordon Greenidge (WI) 149 v England, 1990
- Alec Stewart (Eng) 105 v West Indies, 2000
- Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak) 184 v India, 2005
- Ricky Ponting (Aus) 120 and 143* v South Africa, 2006
- Graeme Smith (SA) 131 v England, 2012
- Hashim Amla (SA) 134 v Sri Lanka, 2017
- Joe Root (Eng) 218 v India, 2021
- David Warner (Aus) — v South Africa, 2022