South Africa won the third Test against Australia by a whopping 309 runs as they bowled out the hosts for 322 on Day Four at the WACA. The Proteas, thus, clinched the three-match series 1-0 and retained their world No 1 ranking in Tests.
Australia lost as many as eight wickets behind the sticks as the South African bowlers repeatedly found the edge; wicket-keeper AB de Villiers and captain Graeme Smith, omnipresent in the slip cordon, were involved in seven of the dismissals.
The Proteas picked up wickets at regular intervals, with Dale Steyn and Robin Peterson getting three each while Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel got two apiece.
After reducing the Australians to 235 for nine, it looked like the Proteas would wrap things up soon. But Mitchell Starc, who picked up six wickets in the second innings, was back to trouble the Proteas as he scored a counter-attacking half-century off just 32 balls. It was the second-fastest fifty by an Australian and 14th overall, as the lanky lad from New South Wales shared a defiant 87-run last-wicket stand with Nathan Lyon (31). Starc scored 68 off 43 balls and was looking good to beat Sir Viv Richards’ world record century off 64 balls before Lyon poked at Steyn and gave Smith his fifth catch at first slip.
Earlier in the day, after beginning the second session at 110 for three, Australia lost Ed Cowan, who had scored a fighting half century to Steyn. The No 1 bowler in the world set Cowan up well, banging in the short ones from around the wicket to the left-hander with a deep square-leg and fine leg in place. Cowan pulled, found the top edge and holed out to Dean Elgar.
Captain Michael Clarke had scored a quick 44 off 52 balls including eight boundaries and was looking well set. However, a rush of blood resulted in him charging down the track to Robin Peterson’s flighted delivery; he missed it and was stumped by AB de Villiers who did well behind the sticks.
Michael Hussey, known to drive Australia out of precarious situations in the past, too could not inspire what would be a miraculous comeback as a fiery, crazy-eyed Steyn found his edge to give de Villiers another catch.
Australia went into the break still 428 runs behind with all-rounders John Hastings and Mitchell Johnson at the crease.
In the first session, chasing a mammoth total of 632 runs, Australia reached 110 runs for the loss of three wickets at Lunch.
Playing his final Test match, all eyes were on Ricky Ponting, who received a warm welcome from South African cricketers. The Proteas gave the former Australian skipper and second-highest run-getter in Tests a guard of honour on his arrival on the field as the WACA gave a standing ovation.
Ponting, however, could not have a fairytale ending to his illustrious 17-year career that everyone was hoping for. He departed again in single digits, dismissed on eight by Robin Peterson after edging the left-arm spinner to first slip.
But the 37-year-old did give the crowd a couple of glimpses of the form that propelled him to stardom, scoring two boundaries including one via his trademark pulls.
South Africa picked up three wickets in the session, including the dangerous duo of David Warner and Shane Watson, who are known to change the game around with their aggressive strokeplay.
Warner was gone on the second ball of the day as Vernon Philander squared him up and found the edge that went to Graeme Smith at first slip. Watson was set up by Morne Morkel well and fell in similar fashion.
Brief Scores: South Africa 225 and 569 (Hashim Amla 196, AB de Villiers 169; Mitchell Starc 6 for 154, Mitchell Johnson 4 for 110) bt Australia 163 and 322 (Mitchell Starc 68*, Ed Cowan 53, Michael Clarke 44; Robin Peterson 3 for 127, Dale Steyn 3 for 72) by 309 runs.
Man of the Match: Hashim Amla
Man of the Series: Michael Clarke
First Published: December 3, 2012, 2:31 pm