South Africa: 189 all out & 15/1 (Erwee 7*, De Bruyn 6*, Cummins 1/0)
Australia: 575/8 decl (Warner 200, Carey 111, Green 51, Head 51, Nortje 3/92)
South Africa trail by 371 runs
Johannesburg - All that South Africa have left to play for now is pride. The chance to achieve a record-breaking fourth consecutive Test series win in Australia has now all but been vanquished.
Pride is the consolation prize for all losers, the default currency when there is no trophy left to play for. On the evidence of that past few days in Melbourne, even that may be stretching it too far for this Proteas group.
By the close of a gruelling third day, which was cut short by rain, for the tourists the gap between the sides had bulged to 371 runs. South Africa had only nine wickets left, losing their captain Dean Elgar for a duck within the first nine balls of the second innings.
It could have been even worse had David Warner pouched a sharp chance off Theunis de Bruyn’s outside edge a couple of overs later.
For long periods, South Africa were simply bereft of spirit, enterprise and skill. They bowled without expectation, fielded raggedly. Australia were superior in all aspects.
There was a brief moment of respite in the morning session when that lion-hearted competitor Anrich Nortje took a couple of wickets, which included Travis Head (51) and the returning Warner (200), off successive balls.
And when it was followed by Kagiso Rabada removing Australia’s captain Pat Cummins the following over, the visitors were suddenly filled with hope of an improbable comeback.
But as quickly as it arrived, it dissipated with Australian wicket-keeper Alex Carey stroking his maiden Test century in elegant fashion. Carey (111) shared a partnership of 117 with Cameron Green, who batted with a broken finger en-route to 51.
Together, along with a brisk 21 from Nathan Lyon, they put the match and series out of sight for South Africa.
Carey’s century was the first by an Australian wicket-keeper at the MCG since the late Rod Marsh’s 110* in the 1977 Boxing Day Ashes Test.
Australia’s delay in ringing the declaration bell further frustrated the South Africans as they went through the motions in the field for most of the afternoon.
They were eventually taken out of their misery when Mitchell Starc was struck on the helmet under the increasingly gloomy Melbourne sky.
Starc, who was also suffering from ligament damage to his middle finger, gestured to his skipper Cummins in the dressingroom to call the batters in with the request eventually being granted.
Cummins’ primary concern was not the amount of runs his team were leading by, but for the for the fact both Green, who claimed a maiden Test five-for in the first innings, and Starc were unlikely to bowl in South Africa’s second innings leaving the skipper with just three specialist bowlers to get the job done.
Starc, however, showed great resilience to take the new ball despite pictures showing that the injury was still bleeding while his fingernail was beginning to turn purple.