Australia star batter Marnus Labuschagne was flying everywhere in the outfield on Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test against South Africa at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Labuschagne, who is currently the top-ranked batter in Test cricket, took a stunning catch at cover to dismiss Khaya Zondo off Mitchell Starc’s bowling. Prior to that, the 28-year-old effected a direct-hit to give Dean Elgar his marching orders in the first session. Elgar tried to seal a single off Starc’s delivery but Labuschagne, who was deployed at cover, nailed a direct-hit to dismiss the South Africa captain.
South Africa staged a gutsy fightback after Australia ripped through their fragile top order.
The Proteas were 144/5 at tea, with Kyle Verreynne (not out 40) and Marco Jansen (not out 38) putting up a spirited 77-run stand.
South Africa started well but were stunned just before lunch when Elgar, who completed 5,000 Test runs, and the experienced Temba Bavuma were out in the final few minutes of the session.
It left them in trouble at 58-4 and the inexperienced middle-order facing a daunting task.
Zondo was dismissed in the fifth over after lunch for five, courtesy of a stunning Labuschagne diving catch at covers.
Australia had won the toss and elected to bowl.
The hosts won the first of three Tests by six wickets inside two days on a hostile and green Gabba pitch in Brisbane last week.
Before the start of the match, Australia’s men’s Test Player of the Year award was renamed in Shane Warne’s honour as tributes were paid to the late spin-king at the Boxing Day Test against South Africa.