David Warner notched up his 21st Test hundred. (Source: AP)
Opening batsman David Warner enjoyed a gift-wrapped century after being reprieved on 99 as Australia endured a meandering first day of the Boxing Day Test against England on Tuesday.
Warner was caught at mid-on on the cusp of his 21st Test hundred and first of the ongoing Ashes but the wicket was cancelled to the delight of a festive Melbourne Cricket Ground when the replay showed England’s debutant paceman Tom Curran had overstepped.
The home vice captain was unable to cash in, but his 103 helped drive Australia to 244 for three at stumps, a position of strength after skipper Steve Smith won the toss and opted to bat on a slow, flat wicket.
Smith’s brilliant series continued, the Australian captain 65 not out at the close, with Shaun Marsh also unbeaten on 31.
The pair steered Australia to safety with an unbroken partnership of 84 after Stuart Broad ended a 70-over wicket drought to have Usman Khawaja caught behind for 17.
Smith now remains unbeaten in three consecutive Boxing Day Tests, having scored a total of 434 runs in matches against West Indies, Pakistan and now England.
Australia reclaimed the Ashes in the third Test in Perth and hold an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series but 88,172 spectators packed the MCG to witness a peculiar day’s play.
After Warner and fellow opener Cameron Bancroft piled on 102 runs to lunch, Australia added only 43 in the second session as England rallied with two wickets in brilliant sunshine.
All-rounder Chris Woakes broke Warner and Bancroft’s 122-run partnership by having Bancroft lbw for 26.
Warner was caught on 99 just before the drinks break, a clumsy pull-shot off Curran’s no-ball lobbing to Broad at mid-on.
He raised his hundred with a single on the next ball and celebrated with his customary running jump and fist-pump before offering Curran some choice words, angering England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.
After dismissing Khawaja, Broad very nearly captured a second wicket on the next ball, trapping new batsman Marsh in front but the lbw appeal was turned down.
Root reviewed the decision but the decision remained the umpire’s call, with the tracking technology showing it clipping off the bails.
Marsh survived another big shout for lbw but England’s brief moment of ascendancy disappeared as the left-hander bunkered down with Smith.
Smith raised his 22nd Test half-century by driving part-time spinner Dawid Malan for two runs through the covers.
Australia made one change to their side, with right-arm pace bowler Jackson Bird coming in for injured left-armer Mitchell Starc.
England also made one change to the side that lost by an innings and 41 runs in Perth with Surrey seamer Curran replacing Craig Overton who was ruled out with a broken rib.