David Warner in brutal moment as Aussies collapse in Boxing Day Test

South Africa have roared back to life through Anrich Nortje, who prompted a batting collapse for Australia as the hosts face an injury crisis.

David Warner and Travis Head are pictured side by side, dismayed after losing their wickets in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test.
David Warner and Travis Head were clean bowled in consecutive balls from South Africa's Anrich Nortje, prompting a middle-order collapse at the MCG. Pictures: AAP

South Africa have roared back to life in the Boxing Day Test, after fast bowler Anrich Nortje clean bowled both Travis Head and David Warner in consecutive balls. The 29-year-old's hat-trick ball was well defended by Pat Cummins, but the two previous wickets were a big reward for the visitors' most potent bowler after Warner's double century on day two.

Warner returned to the crease after Head was dismissed after he retired hurt on 200 Tuesday, only to hear the bails fall behind him thanks to a terrific delivery from Nortje. Looking to play one down the leg side, the ball glanced off his right leg and cannoned into the stumps, bringing Warner's terrific innings to a somewhat underwhelming end.

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Given a standing ovation from the MCG crowd as he returned to the crease, Warner was unable to add to his already massive tally of runs, but the dismissal took nothing away from his incredible day two effort. Warner became the first Australian since Ricky Ponting to score a century in his 100th Test, and the second to score a double century after Joe Root did so against India in 2021.

The start of play was briefly delayed on day three after rain fell in Melbourne, but Head soon passed 50 when play was resumed and he returned to the crease alongside Alex Carey. Both Head and Warner were undone by deliveries that bore an uncanny similarity, with Nortje's delivery to Head also cutting across his legs and hitting off-stump to deliver the much needed breakthrough for South Africa.

While there was no hat-trick to be had for Nortje, the visitors were able to capitalise on their momentum with Kasigo Rabada removing Cummins in the next over. Australia had lost three wickets for just five runs, giving the Proteas a glimpse of hope with both Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green potentially unable to bowl in the second innings due to injury.

Cummins was out by the barest of margins, with South Africa sending their appeal to the third umpire. The hot-spot didn't reveal anything, but the snicko showed the barest of feather touches on the Australian skipper's bat - enough for him to be out caught behind.

Despite holding a healthy lead approaching 250 runs, Australia's injury concerns will give South Africa's so far uninspiring batting line-up some hope of hauling themselves back into the match after they were bowled out on day one. Regardless, fans were impressed by Nortje's continued aggression, with the South African quick being praised by Warner after a thrilling battle on day two.

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Australia desperate for tail to wag amid bowling injury drama

Allrounder Cameron Green has a fractured finger, putting him out of the attack for the rest of the Boxing Day Test. Green will bat again if needed, but will not feature in Sydney's third Test.

An Australian spokesman said on Wednesday morning that Green will not play again until next year's Test tour of India. "Green has a small fracture to his right index finger," the spokesman said.

Green's finger was bloody and swollen on Tuesday after a delivery from paceman Anrich Nortje jammed it against the bat handle. He was forced to retire hurt and went to hospital for scans.

Cameron Green confers with trainers for Australia after being hit on the finger in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test.
Cameron Green will not bowl for the remainder of the Boxing Day Test after fracturing his finger on day two. (Photo by Daniel Pockett - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

It comes after Mitchell Starc also suffered an injury to his finger while fielding on day one, also ruling him out of the bowling attack for the remainder of the Boxing Day Test. He'll also miss the SGC Test in a bitter blow for Australia on what was otherwise a triumphant day two. Green's absence is a major blow after his first five-wicket Test haul on Monday to rout South Africa.

"That's going to be a big factor," Nortje said of the Australian injuries. "It's going to be crucial to bat for as long as we can.

"The more overs the bowlers are to bowl, the more maybe a backup bowler ... would have to apply themselves. "That's going to be a crucial stage for us ... work through the difficult stages with our top order and then try and cash in a little bit later."

With AAP

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