Warner would have been heartened by the way South African wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne (52 off 99 balls) and tall left-arm seamer Marco Jansen (59 off 136) batted under a cloudless sky for a sixth wicket partnership of 112 in 36.2 overs.
It was Verreynne’s second half-century in three innings, highlighting his capacity to fight, and the 22-year-old Jansen’s first half-century in his ninth Test, confirming what a valuable player he is becoming.
Green broke the partnership – and the game – open by dismissing both batters as South Africa lost their last five wickets for just 10 runs. This was after they had lost their first five for 67.
There are good reasons why Cummins won the and bowled on a straw-coloured MCG pitch but surely the most obvious was simply to demoralise the tourists.
The pitch may have been a little damp and there may have been a suggestion of early cloud cover, but both would soon disappear under the post-Christmas sun, which threatens 37 degrees on Tuesday.
There was no need for Cummins to look up or down before deciding whether to bat or bowl, but instead only to look at the South African team sheet.
After losing an adrenaline-fuelled encounter on a green Gabba wicket inside two days, South Africa “strengthened” their batting by dropping Rassie van der Dussen, 33, who had an average of 30 after 18 Tests.
He was replaced by Theunis de Bruyn, 30, who averages 19 after 12 Tests and has played none since 2019, reducing the number of South Africans in the team with a Test average above 30 from four to three. Rarely has there been a greater example in cricket of shuffling the deckchairs.
Even so, the Proteas almost managed to negotiate the first hour before last year’s Boxing Day cult hero, Scott Boland, drew a roar from the crowd when he removed Sarel Erwee (18), caught at third slip by Khawaja.
The crowd certainly know who Boland is. There was a similar roar just three balls into the day when Elgar nudged the ball wide of short leg for two and Boland ran it down.
It looked like South Africa would get to lunch just one wicket down but de Bruyn (12) perished to a skied, ill-judged pull to give Green his first wicket.
As the only truly credentialed batsman in the side, Elgar could not have picked a worse time for his first run-out in 81 Tests.
Elgar pushed a delivery wide of mid-off and set off for a single, but Marnus Labuschagne swooped on the ball and threw down the stumps with the batsman well short of his ground.
Temba Bavuma (1) was caught behind next ball off Mitchell Starc and South Africa went to lunch at 4-58. A familiar theme had emerged.
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