Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja both scored composed fifties to put Australia in a commanding position in the third Test against South Africa in Sydney, as recalled batsman Matt Renshaw tested positive for Covid-19.
The duo came together after opener David Warner fell early in the first session and took Australia to 138-1 before bad light forced an early tea on the opening day. Forecast rain began to fall soon after.
Khawaja, who averages over 98 in Sydney Tests, was batting on 51 with Labuschagne on 73.
The pair consolidated the innings after Anrich Nortje struck in his second over when he had Melbourne Test double-centurion Warner caught at slip by Marco Jansen for 10.
Khawaja survived a review straight after lunch on 25 as he reverse-swept Simon Harmer and was given out lbw, but replays showed the ball touching the glove.
Labuschagne also had a big moment on 70 when he edged Jansen to Harmer at slip but multiple replays overturned the dismissal to the Proteas’ chagrin with the ball appearing to hit the ground.
Caught at slip! Or maybe not…
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) January 4, 2023
Renshaw, recalled for his first Test since April 2018, returned a positive Covid-19 test after the toss was taken and the team confirmed.
But team officials said he would continue to play in the match with his symptoms only described as mild.
Renshaw was transferred to a separate dressing room from his teammates where he will prepare for the rest of the match, and spent the first hour of play sitting away from the team runners near the Australian dug-out.
Skipper Pat Cummins won his fifth successive toss and decided to play an extra spinner with left-armer Ashton Agar, and Renshaw coming in to bolster the batting, squeezing out in-form paceman Scott Boland on a dry cracking SCG pitch.
South Africa did likewise, with off-spinner Harmer ousting Lungi Ngidi while Heinrich Klaasen replaced Theunis de Bruyn at No 3.
Apart from a series clean sweep, Australia will be looking to lock in a place in the ICC World Test Championship final in London in June. The Proteas still have an outside chance but must first cause an upset in Sydney.
The Australians have already wrapped up the three-match series after hammering the Proteas by an innings and 182 runs in Melbourne following a six-wicket rout in the opener in Brisbane inside two days.
© Agence France-Presse