As it happened: Day one at the MCG
Milestone man David Warner celebrated the end of a four-year Ashes drought by trading barbs with England’s Test newbie as Australia dug in for the long haul on a dull MCG pitch.
Christmas came a day late for the Australian vice-captain, who posted his 21st Test century in dramatic fashion on Boxing Day, before Joe Root’s bowlers clawed their way back into the contest in the afternoon.
Captain Steve Smith was unbeaten on 65 overnight with his third century of the series appearing to be at his mercy. The home side was 3/244 at stumps on day one with their eyes set on another imposing first innings total.
The series is over but if the level of chirp from both sides is a guide they are not treating this marquee fixture as a dead rubber, though it was not as heated as in Brisbane when England felt Australia skated close to the line.
Test debutant Tom Curran lived up to his reputation as a “feisty character” by getting under Warner’s skin but had no answer after getting his comeuppance.
Warner was halfway off the MCG after holing out on 99 but was spared after video replays showed Curran had over stepped.
The following ball, the opener reached triple figures against England for the first time since the 2013/14 whitewash before unleashing a verbal barrage on the bowler. Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow also felt Warner’s wrath as he came in to defend the newcomer.
James Anderson spoke to the umpire shortly after but later denied it was related to the incident.
“He [Curran] muttered something, I didn’t let it go, I have to bite back as I normally do,” Warner said. “That will always come with a game of cricket.”
Umpires had to intervene later to speak to Shaun Marsh and Smith and the in-close fielders after more words were exchanged.
The hosts claimed the honours on the first day. But on a pitch where nothing happens in a hurry England are in the contest and can sneak ahead if they land early blows while the shine is still on the second new ball.
It was shaping as another dismal day for England when Warner cut a swathe early but the opener was the only batsman to dominate on the lifeless track.
Before a crowd of 88,172, Australia laboured at 2.33 runs an over after lunch, with only 43 runs between lunch and tea.
“Second session we did all we could with that pitch. It wasn’t exciting to watch, it wasn’t exciting to play,” Anderson said.
“That’s the pitch we have for the next five days, we just have to put up with it.”
Making the most of the extra pace on offer against the new ball, Warner reached his hundred off only 130 balls midway through the second session but runs were otherwise hard to come by. So too were wickets on a pitch which England’s bowlers extracted minimal sideways movement.
It was a banner day for Warner, who had been subdued by his standards this summer. Only three Australians – Don Bradman, Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden – have posted 6000 Test runs in fewer than the 129 innings it has taken the 31-year-old.
Warner was at his best against the new ball when mere pushes down the pitch raced to the straight boundary. Wide balls were flayed, often in the air, through the gully and point region.
He found the going tougher as the ball softened and the pace came out of the game. He met his demise on 103 when Anderson, England’s best bowler for the day, moved one away off the seam to have him caught behind.
Warner’s fluency was in contrast to Cameron Bancroft, who floundered to 26 before being trapped in front by Chris Woakes. Usman Khawaja also battled, making 17 off 65 balls before being caught behind off Stuart Broad’s bowling. It ended a run of 69.1 overs without a wicket for the veteran quick.
Smith will join Warner in the 6000-club this innings if he can reach 204, which is not improbable in his rich vein of form.
The batting wonder has now gone 454 runs without giving up his wicket at the MCG, a run which stretches back to the 2015 Boxing Day Test.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.