South Africa frustrated as Australia reach 138-1 in rain-hit third test

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Australia were 138 for one when bad light halted play before rain brought tea early on day one of the third test against South Africa in Sydney on Wednesday.

Opener Usman Khawaja was 51 not out and Marnus Labuschagne was on 73 at the Sydney Cricket Ground after home captain Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat.

The match is a dead rubber after Australia sealed the series with wins in Melbourne and Brisbane, but Cummins’s side can book their place in the World Test Championship final with another victory in Sydney.

The second session was cut off at the drinks break as dark clouds gathered, with South Africa left fuming after the third umpire reprieved Labuschagne on 70 when he edged Marco Jansen to the slips.

The Proteas celebrated as Simon Harmer claimed a catch on the ground and umpire Paul Reiffel gave a “soft signal” that Labuschagne was out.

However, after minutes poring over different camera angles, third umpire Richard Kettleborough froze the vision on one frame and declared the ball had hit the ground.

South Africa captain Dean Elgar remonstrated with Reiffel about the decision but Labuschagne and Khawaja saw out the session, having extended their partnership to 126 runs.

Australia had resumed on 68 for one after lunch and attacked South Africa’s spinners with gusto.

Labuschagne smashed Keshav Maharaj around the ground and raced past his fifty. He had racked up 13 fours by the end of the abridged second session.

Cummins earlier completed a perfect home summer with the toss, calling it correctly in five out of five tests and putting his much-changed team in to bat on a pitch that offered turn for at the end of the first session.

Express paceman Anrich Nortje was gifted the only wicket of the day when David Warner, who scored 200 in the second test in Melbourne, made an ill-judged cut at a fuller delivery to nick to Jansen in the slips and be out for 10.

Both teams sprung selection surprises, with Australia picking Matt Renshaw as a middle order batsman and going with only two fast bowlers.

Paceman Josh Hazlewood, recalled after recovering from a side strain, replaced the dropped Scott Boland, while left-arm spinner Ashton Agar was picked for his first test since 2017.

Renshaw, back in the side for the first time in nearly five years, tested positive for COVID-19 before play started but will play out the test, the Australia team confirmed.

South Africa picked wicketkeeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen to replace Theunis de Bruyn at number three, overlooking Rassie van der Dussen.

The tourists also picked a second spinner in Simon Harmer to partner Keshav Maharaj, while dropping third seamer Lungi Ngidi.