Woeful South Africa lose by innings, Australia take series

The Herald

MELBOURNE. — Australia captain Pat Cummins hailed teammates Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green for their courage under fire after the injured duo played through pain to help the side complete a Test cricket series-sealing victory over South Africa yesterday.

Paceman Starc snapped a tendon in the middle finger of his bowling hand during a fielding mishap on day one of the second test in Melbourne but bowled a full load and took a wicket on day four as Australia won by a thumping innings and 182 runs.

Allrounder Green retired hurt after his index finger was broken by an Anrich Nortje delivery but returned to the crease on day three to score an unbeaten 51, adding to his five-wicket haul earlier.

“(It’s) probably a good time to mention all the incredible achievements this week. Starcy with a finger that’s going to put him out for a few weeks, to have the bravery to go out and do that,” Cummins told reporters.

“Cam Green, the same, ‘guts-ing’ it out for us.

“We saw Steve Smith and Davey (Warner) on day two in 38 degrees — gutsy, gutsy innings.

“It just speaks volumes for the team at the moment. Everyone would do anything for each other so we’re in a really good place.”

The Boxing Day Test triumph gave Australia an unassailable 2-0 lead ahead of the third and final match in Sydney, while shoring up top spot in the World Test Championship.

It also capped an exceptional year for Australia in Test cricket, with Cummins’s side winning seven out of 10 matches, including a series win in Pakistan.

After Sydney, Australia will switch focus to the tour of India in February with the Ashes in England to follow.

With veteran opener Warner shrugging off a lean run in a brilliant 200 in the Melbourne heat and a depleted attack still easily able to deal with South Africa, Cummins said he was leading a special Australian team.

“Yeah, probably the best Test team I’ve played in, just in terms of how well settled everyone is, how well everyone knows their gameplan,” he said.

“In terms of captaining I don’t feel like I have to do much at all. Everyone looks after themselves. You just kind of make sure the buses are on time – which the team manager does.

“It’s just in a really sweet spot at the moment. We know it’s not going to stay like this forever. But I think we can just all kind of sit back and appreciate the place that we are in at the moment because it’s really special

“We’re having a hell of a lot of fun as well doing it together with some of our best mates.”

Meanwhile, Proteas captain Dean Elgar acknowledged that it was a bitter pill to swallow as South Africa crumbled to an innings and 182-run defeat on day four of the second Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground yesterday.

Australia went on to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match Test series, with the New Year’s Test at Sydney still remaining.

The Proteas showed some resistance in the first hour but soon lost their way against a formidable Australian attack — one that didn’t include Cameron Green, who took a five-for in the first innings.

Elgar, who was dismissed for a duck on day three, had to watch from the sidelines as his side tried to chase a commanding deficit in order to save the test match.

Temba Bavuma struck a welcomed Test half-century, but that was the only performance of note as the Proteas were bowled out for 204.

Elgar acknowledges his side’s weak performance, stating that no fight was shown in Melbourne.

“It was always going to be a tough pill to swallow, but there aren’t a lot of positives. There are few, but the negatives outweigh the positives,” Elgar told reporters yesterday.

“It’s a pretty weak performance, I’d say, especially in conditions that were really good for test cricket.

“We’re disappointed in how things ended up. I still wanted to see us with a fighting chance and giving the Aussies a tough time by taking pride in our wickets.”

Bavuma top-scored with 65, while spinner Nathan Lyon shone with the ball as he took 3 for 58 as the Proteas suffered a crushing defeat.

Elgar insists that the Proteas will look to bounce back in the third and final test at Sydney next week. — Reuters.

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