Left-handed batter Alex Carey slammed his maiden Test century to carry forward Australia domination over South Africa on the third day of the second match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), here on Wednesday.
When stumps were called early after an hour was lost to persistent light rain, South Africa were struggling at 15-1 having lost skipper Dean Elgar for a third-ball duck and still 371 runs shy of forcing Australia to bat a second time.
At the start of the day's play, there was some help for pacers as a slight drizzle seemed to spruce up the pitch. Taking advantage of that, Anrich Nortje zipped one through half-centurion Travis Head's defences and knocked him over early on.
Thereafter, double-centurion David Warner walked in to a standing ovation after having retired hurt last evening owing to cramps. However, he went back to the pavilion one ball later as Nortje served him a fast low-full toss that hit the base of the stumps via his pads.
When Kagiso Rabada dismissed Pat Cummins, it seemed as if the visitors would put a lid on the Australian first innings rather quickly. But, it wasn't to be as the pair of Carey and Nathan Lyon had an impressive stand. Lyon thrilled the MCG crowd by pulling Rabada for a four and then a six and His 17-ball stay fetched 25 runs for Australia before Lungi Ngidi got rid of him.
Australia then sent another retired-hurt batter Cameron Green, despite his fractured finger and it proved to be an ideal foil for Carey, who reached to his half-century in 66 balls and Australia had added 93 runs in the session and their lead ticked towards 300.
Post-Lunch, Protes skipper Elgar began the bowling from the spinner Keshav Maharaj from one end while the seamers took turns to try their luck from the other, beginning with Kagiso Rabada. But, Carey, who had accessed the pitch beautifully and had no problems in facing them.
The wicket-keeper played reverse-swept, pull, upper-cut and eventually a push drive through extra cover for three took Carey to his maiden Test century. It made him only the second Australian keeper-bat to score a Boxing Day Test hundred after Rod Marsh. He was eventually dismissed for 111 to Marco Jansen.
From there on, Green showed his batting skill and hit 170-ball half-century despite being ruled out of the next Test with a finger fracture sustained on Tuesday. No.10 Mitchell Starc pulled a six off Anrich Nortje before wearing another short ball on his helmet, which led to a brief stoppage in play owing to the mandatory concussion test.
Australia skipper Pat Cummins thought he had enough runs and declared the first innings at 575/8. He then removed his counterpart Elgar for a duck to leave South Africa hoping for a miracle to salvage the Test.
Brief scores: South Africa 189 & 15/1 (Pat Cummins 1-0) trail Australia 575/8 decl (David Warner 200, Alex Carey 111; Anrich Nortje 3-92) by 371 runs.