MELBOURNE: A maiden century by wicketkeeper Alex Carey pushed Australia closer to a series-sealing victory in the second Test as South Africa’s batsmen were left with a mountain to climb at the end of a rain-hit Day 3 on Wednesday.
South Africa were 15 for one when play was stopped seven overs after tea and later abandoned.
The Proteas still need 371 runs to make Australia bat again after the hosts declared for 575 for eight under gathering clouds at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
South Africa captain Dean Elgar was caught behind for a duck off the bowling of home captain Pat Cummins, continuing a dismal series for the seasoned opener.
Opener Sarel Erwee was seven not out and number three Theunis de Bruyn on six.
With drizzle falling and the ball skidding on a damp pitch, Erwee and De Bruyn headed off gratefully when the umpires halted play.
But Australia will be confident of taking the final nine wickets having skittled the tourists for 189 in the first innings and less in the first Test win in Brisbane.
The hosts dominated for a third successive day, with South Australian Carey batting superbly in a knock of 111.
All-rounder Cameron Green finished unbeaten on 51 despite nursing a broken index finger that saw him retire on day two.
Tail-ender Mitchell Starc was also nursing a sore finger on his bowling hand but sent down a few overs after tea before the rain.
Carey and Green built a 117-run partnership upon resuming after lunch, with South Africa’s bowlers barely threatening through most of a meandering session under leaden skies.
Carey pulled Marco Jansen for three to bring up his century just after the drinks break but was caught and bowled by the all-rounder after sending a top-edge high above the pitch.
Anrich Nortje had earlier struck twice in two balls as South Africa grabbed four wickets in the morning session after Australia resumed on 386 for three.
Nortje bowled Travis Head for 51 straight after the South Australian brought up his second half-century of the series and then bowled David Warner on the next delivery with a rocketing yorker after the veteran opener resumed on 200, having retired hurt with cramp on day two.
Cummins defended the hat-trick ball but the home skipper was soon caught behind for four off the bowling of paceman Kagiso Rabada.
South Africa had taken three wickets for five runs, leaving Australia 400 for six, but the rally stalled as plucky tail-ender Nathan Lyon combined with Carey in a quickfire 40-run partnership.
Lyon was eventually caught for 25, slogging at a Lungi Ngidi short ball.
Though Green batted superbly with his injury, the big all-rounder will not bowl for the rest of the Test and has been ruled out for the third and final match in Sydney.