Riding a wave of emotion provided by a festive crowd at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Cameron Green claimed the best bowling figures of his Test career as Australia bowled South Africa out for 189 on the opening day of the second Test.
Pace bowler Green (5-27) gave the enthusiastic fans something to cheer about by triggering a late-order collapse of five wickets for 10 runs as the 23-year-old claimed his first five-wicket haul in Tests on Monday.
Leading the three-match series one-nil, Australia reached 45-1 at stumps before a crowd of 64,876.
David Warner was unbeaten on 32 with Marnus Labuschagne on five, leaving the home side 144 runs behind with nine wickets in hand, after Usman Khawaja fell caught behind for one to Kagiso Rabada.
Choosing to bowl first, Australia was on top shortly after lunch with South Africa struggling at 67-5 before Kyle Verreynne (52) and Marco Jansen (59) added 112 for the sixth wicket.
It was South Africa’s seventh consecutive test total under 200.
“But I felt like today was probably the first time in the last couple of games that we have sort of had more soft dismissals than not, and that’s probably the more disappointing thing,” Verreynne said.
Verreynne said South Africa’s tailenders should not be blamed for the touring team’s lower-order collapse, losing five wickets for 10 runs.
“The conversations are more based on the top six and making sure that we have enough runs on the board,” he said.
“It’s more about just taking responsibility at the top.”
On a green-tinged pitch, South Africa’s batsmen had edged cautiously to 58 shortly before lunch for the loss of Sarel Erwee (18) and Theunis de Bruyn (12).
Captain Dean Elgar (26) attempted a risky single to mid-off in the penultimate over before the interval and was run out by a direct hit from Marnus Labuschagne.
Mitchell Starc removed Temba Bavuma caught behind for one off the next delivery to leave the tourists teetering at lunch.
In the fifth over after lunch, Khaya Zondo on five aimed a powerful drive to mid-off where Labuschagne held a superb diving catch at 67-5, as Starc (2-39) claimed his second wicket of the innings. South Africa had lost four wickets for 11 runs.
Dropped at short leg on 22 and on the leg-side boundary on 37, Jansen helped steady South Africa’s innings, reaching his maiden half-century with a lofted boundary to long-on, after Starc failed to hold a difficult catch. Starc briefly left the field for treatment on a sore middle finger.
Still “pinching himself” after last week’s decision by Indian Premier League team Mumbai Indians to pay over $2 million at auction for his services in 2023, all-rounder Green dismissed Verreynne caught at first slip at 179-6.
Green struck twice in his next over, removing Jansen caught behind for 59 and Rabada bowled for four.
Striking again in his third successive over, Green forced his way through Lungi Ngidi’s defences to end the innings in the 69th over.
“You can have a really slow start to the summer, and you think cricket’s so tough, and then you have a few days like this, and it brings you back,” said Green, who claimed 4-10 off 28 balls late in South Africa’s innings.
“At the same time, when you go through a high, cricket can bring you back down really quickly.”
Asked about last week’s life-changing IPL auction, Green added: “It probably still hasn’t sunk in now. It’s a very special feeling, and I’m sure I’ll remember that for a very long time.”
Apart from cheering Green off the field, fans also paid tribute Monday to Test cricket’s second-leading wicket-taker Shane Warne, who died aged 52 in March 2022. The Great Southern Stand at Melbourne Cricket Ground was renamed The Shane Warne Stand on March 31.
Fans were encouraged to wear floppy hats to honour the champion spin bowler. Warne reached the milestone of 700 wickets on his home ground in Melbourne in December 2006.
Both teams wore white floppy hats when walking out onto the field for the national anthems on Monday.
A huge sign saying “Warnie 350” was painted on the outfield to mark Warne’s test-cap number. Play was stopped briefly at 3.50pm Monday, prompting applause from fans and players.
Australia’s trophy for men’s Test player of the year will be renamed the Shane Warne Men’s Test Player of the Year, Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association announced on Monday.
Australia 1st innings: David Warner Not Out 32, Usman Khawaja c Kyle Verreynne b Kagiso Rabada 1, Marnus Labuschagne Not Out
Extras: 5lb, 2nb 0pen, 0w, total 7
Total: (12.0 overs) 45-1
Fall of Wickets: 1-21 Khawaja
To Bat: Smith, Head, Green, Carey, Cummins, Starc, Lyon, Boland