Proteas need to ‘look in the mirror’ and it starts with their captain: Talking Points

    Australia, led by David Warner, are off and running in pursuit of South Africa’s paltry first-innings total of 189.

    The veteran opener looked in vintage touch to ram home Australia’s position of strength, with Warner (32) and Marnus Labuschagne (5) not out as the home side finished on 1-45 at stumps after the tourists were bowled out inside three sessions on Boxing Day.

    But before Warner gave Melburnians something to get excited about before day two, Australia’s newest (three) million-man Cameron Green set up the day by taking his maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket.

    Cameron Green took his maiden five-wicket haul to continue an incredible Christmas. Photo Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

    Green, who was picked up for $3.15 million in the Indian Premier League draft late last week, made sure it was Australia’s day after the Proteas threatened to make a fist of the second Test.

    The tourists slumped to 5-67 before making a comeback by only losing the one wicket in the second session. But the Proteas undid their hard work by losing 5-10 in the final session as Green ended with 5-27.

    Here are our talking points from day one of the Boxing Day Test.

    PROTEAS WERE GONE AS SOON AS THE GABBA ENDED

    As the world shook their heads at the two-day affair at The Gabba, they should have been shaking their heads at Dean Elgar’s comments in the aftermath of the six-wicket loss in Brisbane.

    Elgar, who brought up 5,000 Test runs against Australia before running himself out, made excuse after excuse as he deemed the Gabba wicket “dangerous”.

    The 35-year-old went on to say the wicket was a poor advertisement for Test cricket.

    No Dean, your side’s batting was inept.

    Dean Elgar committed the “cardinal sin” by running himself out on the stroke of lunch. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

    After three comprehensive defeats, where the Proteas failed to pass 200 in as many Tests, Elgar should have been demanding accountability.

    The Gabba wicket was tough. But one man scored 92. It just wasn’t a South African.

    Fast forward a week and South Africa’s top five should hang their heads in shame.  

    Elgar said he was surprised Cummins sent them into bat. Why? On a good wicket, Cummins likely thought the best chance to extract some life out of the MCG deck was to send the fragile Proteas side in to bat again. He was right.

    Twice South Africa’s frailties were laid bare.

    After surviving the first half-hour, South Africa were left reeling at 5-67 shortly after lunch.

    Then, having fought back through a fantastic, gritty lower-order partnership between Kyle Verreynne and Marco Jansen, the Proteas lost 5-10 off 24 deliveries.

    On a flat deck, with the sun beaming and not a cloud in the sky, South Africa had no excuses.

    It’s time to look in the mirror.

    MILLION-MAN DELIVERS

    Cam Green is Australian cricket’s new million-dollar man. $3.1.5m, in fact. The most expensive Australian to sell at the Indian Premier League.

    Yet, on the evidence of the past three months, you might be asking why given his lean summer to date?

    Two blistering half-centuries opening the batting in India in yet another meaningless series back in September as David Warner cooled his heals allowed Green to take centre stage. Meaningless for everyone else but Green, who made the most of it by turning heads.

    It led to the 23-year-old having the biggest payday of his young career, as the IPL’s suitors chased him hard.

    What a week for Cameron Green. There was that #IPLAuction where he did alright and now gets to lead the Australian team off the MCG in front of over 60,000 roaring fans with his first Test five-wicket haul #AusvSA pic.twitter.com/OzziuXjjLl

    — Bharat Sundaresan (@beastieboy07) December 26, 2022

    On Boxing Day, as his much talked about teammates failed to break through, the deceptively fast quick tore through.

    He took one before lunch, as Theunis de Bruyn top-edged a pull shot.

    Then, as the game meandered along during the second session, Green went bang, bang, bang.

    After being pushed through the covers by Lungi Ngidi, Green didn’t hesitate pitching up once again. It worked, as he bowled the tail-ended and set off to point to celebrate. A double fist bump and maiden five-fer in Test cricket.

    Green finished with 5-27; his new IPL franchise, the Mumbai Indians, rubbing their hands together.

    Five wickets: Cameron Green!

    His haul has changed this final session! #MilestoneMoment#AUSvSA | @nrmainsurance pic.twitter.com/Vuq9ofKheY

    — cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 26, 2022

    It was just the spell that Australia and Cummins wanted from their fourth quick, who had been denied time in the middle as his teammates made hay against the West Indies.

    Where Green struggled for his line and length during the opening Tests of the summer, the fast-medium bowler pitched the ball up and generally found the corridor of uncertainty.

    The spell could prove to be just what the immensely talented youngster needs after a lean summer by his standards.

    WARNER’S BOXING DAY WARNING

    There have been more headlines about Warner than most this summer. But, at long last, the left-hander let his bat do the talking on Boxing Day.

    Boxing Day wasn’t any old Test for Warner. It was his 100th. By reaching the milestone he joined some of the greats of Australian cricket to register the milestone. Not bad for a bloke who some thought was a Twenty20 hack.

    But it also could be his last Boxing Day. The end is certainly closer than the finish and his past two years, particularly his last six months, had left many thinking whether he could reach England let alone next summer after failing to score a Test century since the start of 2022. Centuries are an opener’s currency in this form of the game and on that measure, with Warner beyond the mid-30s, the critics were mounting.

    Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner of Australia walk from the pitch at stumps. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

    On Boxing Day 2022, Warner was asked whether he could still take on the short ball. At stumps he emphatically answered that question as he pulled and hooked and punched Kasigo Rabada to the boundary.

    Warner ended the day unbeaten on 32.

    Australia will be watching on Tuesday to see whether he can break his century drought.

    THE PARTNERSHIP THAT SHOWS UP PROTEAS

    At 5-67, it looked like South Africa were set to be rock and rolled again.

    A fighting century partnership from Kyle Verreynne and Marco Jansen showed South Africa how it is done.

    Jansen, 22, was given an early examination.

    Cummins and Starc tested him out with the short ball. Jansen looked in trouble.

    Marco Jansen hit a fine half-century at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 26, 2022 in. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

    But the bowling all-rounder found a way. He scrapped. He fought harder than any of his teammates did in Brisbane and it paid off.

    Eventually batting got easier. He pushed down the ground and swept hard. With two shots, Jansen found a way.

    “This has been a tremendous effort from him at seven,” Kerry O’Keeffe said on Fox Cricket.

    “Question marks whether he’s a legitimate seven – he will be in time. But South Africa are backing him and he’s delivering in this MCG Boxing Day Test. Well done him.”

    Isa Guha added: “He had to battle hard. That’s why this innings has been even more special.”

    His teammate Verreynne followed his towering teammate’s lead.

    Where Jansen found the rope with sheer timing, the wicket-keeper rotated the stroke. It was a gutsy innings.

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