South Africa made a terrifying start to the second Test when they went to lunch at 58 for 4, despite the encouraging brown track of the MCG replacing the depressing green strip of the Gabba. Fans flocked to the MCG in large numbers as Cricket Australia paid a heartfelt tribute to Shane Warne, inspiring the fans to wear the same zinc cream and distinctive floppy hat that the spin maestro wore during his playing career. His name and Test cap number, 350, were also painted on the wicket. Another test in which the host team put its best foot forward right away was also presented to the crowd.
When asked to bat first, Dean Elgar and Sarel Erwee first acted somewhat warily. Even in the fourth over, South Africa’s captain managed to avoid being caught and bowled by his opposite number, Pat Cummins. Australia attacked after realising that the round-the-wicket angle caused the pair far more difficulties and tried both left-handed hitters’ mettle. Before Erwee chased after one from Scott Boland in the eleventh over and nicked to Usman Khawaja at third slip, the pair did well to keep their edges away from balls that tempted them outside the offstump throughout the first ten overs.
Elgar provided another opportunity, albeit a difficult one, on the first ball following the drinks break when he square-drove a full ball from Cameron Green. Nathan Lyon dove to his left while playing point, reaching out to touch the ball with his outstretched arm, but he was unable to hold onto it. Elgar’s approach to scoring runs lacked conviction, but it took one of his most assured shots of the morning to push him past 5000 Test runs and South Africa past 50. This was a drive down the ground against a full delivery from Boland.