Australia’s injuries are causing greater concern than their opponents as the inevitability of a first home Test series victory against South Africa in 16 years looms ever larger at the MCG.
Blood spilled from Mitchell Starc’s left index finger after he opened the bowling in South Africa’s second innings on the third day of the second Test, while Cameron Green has been ruled out of the next Test in Sydney and will not bowl again in this match.
After rain took almost two hours out of the match on Wednesday, South Africa were 1-15 at stumps, still requiring another 371 to make Australia bat a second time.
Despite their enormous lead, Australia dragged Green and Starc out of the casualty ward to bat, with Green finishing unbeaten on 51 from 177 balls and Starc 10 not out from 12 balls.
Green has a broken right index finger and Starc has tendon damage to the middle finger of his left hand, which is also likely to also keep him out of the next Test.
Wicketkeeper Alex Carey, who scored his first Test century with 111, was surprised Green joined him at the crease and equally surprised at how well Starc bowled later in the day despite his injury.
“I’m really excited by the way Starcy is bowling with that finger … he came in about mid 140s and swung it so maybe it’s a good thing he’s got a nick in the digit,” joked Carey, who scored only the second by an Australian wicketkeeper at the MCG after Rod Marsh’s unbeaten 110 in the Centenary Test in 1977.
“I’m pretty sure certain injuries have to be in splints or whatever. I’m not sure about his too much but the way that he’s bowling, I don’t have too many concerns for this match.”
With the unavailability of Green as a bowler, Carey said “pencil Gaz [spinner Nathan Lyon] in for a heap of overs” and suggested part-timers Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head could also do some bowling.
Australia would like the option of playing two spinners on an SCG pitch that turned during a Sheffield Shield match earlier in the season, but without Green’s heavy-duty change bowling as the third seamer, dual spinners become a more difficult scenario.
Carey could well move up to No.6 in place of Green, given his current form. He averages almost 40 from 14 Tests, better than any member of the South Africa squad.
This would allow seamer Michael Neser to squeeze in at No.7, given his improving Shield form with the bat, which includes a century for Queensland earlier this season.
Should Starc be ruled out, the selectors could then choose whether they wanted to play two fast bowlers out of Scott Boland, the recovered Josh Hazlewood and speedster Lance Morris, alongside Cummins and Lyon, or just one if a second spinner was chosen. Leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson and left-arm finger spinner Ashton Agar, who also has three first-class centuries, would be the front-runners.
It’s hard to believe that little more than four months ago South Africa beat England by an innings and 12 runs at Lord’s inside three days to go 1-0 up in their three-match Test series, and consolidated top position in the ICC World Test Championship standings.
Given recent history and their ill-equipped batting line-up, South Africa will do well to make as many as David Warner’s 200, something they haven’t done in their past seven Test innings.
Things would be even worse for the visitors if Warner had taken a low catch at first slip from Theunis de Bruyn off a Cummins edge when the batsman was three.
In the third over of Wednesday morning, South Africa threw a brief counterpunch. The wholehearted and unlucky Anrich Nortje was on a hat-trick after bowling Travis Head (51) and David Warner (200) with successive deliveries.
Retiring hurt the previous day with a glorious 200 after seizing up with cramps, Warner returned to the crease to warm applause, was stunned when his first ball crashed into his back pad then his stumps, and slowly walked off, raising his bat uncertainly to even more applause.
Source : TheSydneMorningHerald