Cameron Green: Australia’s $3 million man rips through South Africa

The ripple effect of the thunderous noise which rattled the MCG amid two spaced-out Boxing Day batting collapses would have been felt in Mumbai as $3 million man Cameron Green shattered a brittle South African wall to put Australia in charge of the second Test.

Three days after Green became the most expensive Australian purchase ever in the Indian Premier League the 23-year-old all-rounder removed the only two Proteas who put up a fight in a searing late afternoon spell which netted him a career best 5-24.

He may have been the butt of a few jokes in the Aussie team WhatsApp group after his lucrative pre-Christmas contract, but there were only beaming smiles as they clapped Green off the ground, ball held aloft for 64,000 packed in the ground, knowing the cricketing “unicorn” was all theirs for now.

Exposing all the batting frailties on display in the opening Test debacle, the South Africans lost a combined 8-12, consisting of 3-2 in the opening session and then 5-10 in the third as Green picked up the ball after a finger injury to Mitchell Starc to claim his maiden five-wicket haul and give his Indian benefactors cause to rub their hands together with excited glee.

“It’s Cameron Green with the golden arm,” Ian Smith said of Green on Fox Cricket.

Starc was sent for scans on his finger having returned to the field after he injured himself, but didn’t bowl again.

Green got his job done in a comfortable 10.4 overs too to ensure Australian cricket’s unicorn could spend ample time with his feet up and contemplating matching his efforts with the bat when needed.

The tourist’s total of 189 took to seven their run of Test innings without passing 200 and was achieved only thanks to a pair of unlikely salvage merchants who put on 112-runs after an early MCG eruption when home two hero Scott Boland snared the opening wicket of the game.

It took the odd couple of 207cm fast bowler Marco Jansen and wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne to produce the fight captain Dean Elgar demanded when his team was put in to bat for the second time in a row by Australian captain Pat Cummins, keen to exploit a batting line-up which lacked top-level runs.

Talking from home to the TV broadcast, former South African captain Graeme Smith, now the country’s cricket boss, defended the picking just five specialist batters, and a keeper, despite the exposed form, of their batters and Australia’s bowlers, making it seem folly.

Smith conceded the batting talent available to the Proteas was “not going to be getting 400s and 500s and be able to really dominate teams that way,” and so stacking the team with bowlers was their best option.

When Australia was 1-45 at stumps, with David Warner 32 not out in test 100, that plan had failed to materialise, yet anyway.

But the day was dominated by Green who before arrival in Melbourne conceded to having endured a “weird” start to his summer, which including bowling but not batting against the West Indies in Perth and then serving a run-chasing purpose in four limited-output innings since then.

Some pundits had moved to put some pressure on Green, who is yet to score a Test hundred in his 25 innings, to deliver more with the bat, but he decided to do it with the ball first.

After Starc was forced from the field when he injured his finger in a failed attempt to stop a boundary, before returning with them taped up, and with Jansen and Verreynne compiling their country’s best sixth-wicket stand in three years, Green was unleashed at the member’s end.

He first removed Verreynne, who had stubbornly scored 52, then in the next 12 balls Green delivered he removed Jansen caught behind and then rattled the stumps of both Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.

The final wicket was enough for Green to charge towards his teammates, smile beaming, arms raised, dollar signs spinning in his head.

While the South African tail failed to not just wag, but even wiggle a little bit, Jansen stood tall.

In his previous eight Tests Jansen had faced just 424 balls, never made a 50 and registered just two runs in two digs as part of a complete team stinker in Brisbane.

His 139 balls of defiance in Melbourne may have come with a few nervous moments but netted 59 of the most important runs of his fledgling career on a wicket needing a full Australian innings to deliver a true and proper reading.

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