Ricky Ponting scored two centuries against South Africa in the SCG Test in January 2006 as Australia won the match and the series © Getty Images
Ricky Ponting scored two centuries against South Africa in the SCG Test in January 2006 as Australia won the match and the series © Getty Images

As Australia are touring South Africa for one of the most anticipated series of the current season, we look back at the past encounters between the sides. Abhishek Mukherjee takes the readers through the most recent encounters between the two sides.


2005-06 in Australia


Tests: 3


Result: Australia 2, South Africa 0


With Australia still on rampage there were few pundits predicting a South African victory [under their new captain Graeme Smith] on their Australian tour of 2005-06, and things did not turn out to be very different. It was the same story all over again: Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden scored a lot of runs (as did Brad Hodge and Michael Hussey), Shane Warne picked up a lot of wickets, and Australia won comfortably.


It was supposed to be different on Day One of the first Test at WACA: Makhaya Ntini removed Hayden for a duck off the second ball of the morning, and despite a gallant 71 from Ponting (he even added 111 for the second wicket with Justin Langer) Ntini ran through the side with figures of five for 64. The mighty Australians were bowled out for 258, and Smith and AB de Villiers took the tourists to a comfortable 38 without loss at stumps.


Smith and de Villiers raced to 83 within 20 overs when the former edged Nathan Bracken to Ponting at slip; Herschelle Gibbs resisted for a while, but from 127 for one Warne and Brett Lee kept on striking and the tourists were reduced to 187 for six, leaving it to the veterans — Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock.


The pair took South Africa past Australia’s score but the lead was restricted to a mere 38. Warne bowled his heart out, but Lee emerged as the star of the attack. He was fast, he was precise, and he finished with five for 93.


The Australian score was 129 for three (they were 91 runs ahead) with Hodge joined Ponting at the crease. On a track that assisted fast bowlers, Hodge took off by pulling Ntini for a boundary. He got an early life when Justin Kemp dropped him off Charl Langeveldt at second slip, and did not look behind: he unleashed one cover-drive after another, and whenever anything was bowled short he pulled brutally.



Hodge added 132 with Hussey in quick time; there was some assistance from Andrew Symonds as well before Adam Gilchrist’s blitz took the match away from the South Africans. Ponting decided to bat on even after the fall of the eighth wicket (and a lead of 413), and Hodge made the most of the situation.


The declaration finally came when Hodge reached his double hundred (thus becoming only the fifth Australian whose maiden hundred was a 200). He remained unbeaten on 203 as Ponting asked South Africa to chase down 491 or to bat out 132 overs.



South Africa lost both openers before stumps, and when Kemp walked out to join Jacques Rudolph the score read a sorry 138 for four in the 62nd over. There were over 70 overs to be batted out, and Warne seemed to be on a roll: Kemp, who had looked helpless against the Victorian in the first innings, decided to do something uncharacteristic: he used his very, very long stride to smother the spin of Warne.


The persistent Glenn McGrath, the wily Bracken, and the steaming Lee assisted him at the other end, but Warne was the man who had to be kept out. Rudolph made judicious use of the crease, playing the ball with soft hands to counter Warne’s vicious bounce; and time moved on.


Overs passed; lunch came and went, as did tea. The tale did not change; stretch, smother; go back, smother; stretch, smother; go back, smother; nimble Rudolph and gigantic Kemp kept Australia (read Warne) at bay for 51.5 overs and 213 minutes; when Kemp was eventually caught at bat-pad by Ponting off Warne, he had scored a 166-ball 55.


With over 18 overs to go there was still chance, but Rudolph would have nothing of it; in Mark Boucher’s experience he found a more than experienced ally, and the pair played out time immediately after Rudolph reached his hundred. His 102 not — perhaps the finest of his career — had come off 431 minutes and 283 balls, and by batting throughout the fifth day he saved the Test for South Africa.


Ponting surprisingly opted for Stuart MacGill alongside Warne on a Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) pitch that had a green tinge and hence batted first. South Africa struck early once again, removing Phil Jacques, and despite a 152-run second-wicket partnership between Hayden (65) and Ponting (117) Pollock, Ntini and Andre Neil ran through the rest. From 207 for three they collapsed to 248 — well, almost: there was still Hussey to contend with.



There was only McGrath to come to his support, but what a hand “Pigeon” played! He scored 11, but more importantly, he stood unvanquished after facing 56 minutes. Hussey was on a tame 87-ball 23 when McGrath had walked out: in the next 116 balls he faced, he scored 99 before playing on to Ntini. The last pair had added 107 runs.



Gibbs (94) and de Villiers (61) then added 86 for the second, but though nine batsmen made it to double-figures nobody else crossed 25. Three batsmen — Gibbs, Boucher, and Pollock — fell to Symonds, and with Lee picking up three more South Africa conceded a 44-run lead by the third afternoon.


Then came Hayden, and raced to 137 in 242 balls with ridiculous ease. It was one of those typical Hayden innings that demoralised bowlers to the core: he stepped out to seamers, played his booming straight drives, and when anything was pitched short he rocked back and pulled ferociously.



There had been enough mental disintegration already, but once Symonds walked out to join Hayden it was sheer carnage: the Queenslanders put up 124 in 91 balls; Symonds’ 54-ball 72 (five fours, six sixes) killed whatever hope was there in the hearts of the hapless South Africans: Wisden called it, quite rightfully, a “blacksmith’s innings”.



Batting out four sessions or scoring 366 were equally improbable, especially against Warne on a turning pitch: Warne finished with four for 74, and once again South Africans gave two cheap wickets to Symonds, who had resorted to bowling seam-up instead of off-breaks. The tourists were bowled out an over after lunch, Pollock playing a lone hand to take the score from 82 for six to 181.


Smith finally won the toss at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), but once again they were reduced to 86 for three by the seamers. This brought Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince to the crease, and the pair, were determined not to give up: they went to stumps at 230 for three, and continued the grind the following day.


Both Kallis (111) and Prince (119) knew the importance of a big first innings score, and they kept the hosts at bay for over 76 overs, adding 219. Pollock had a few hefty blows, and Smith declared the innings closed at 451 for nine. The total was formidable without a doubt.




South Africa were without Ntini, but they had a debutant in Johan Botha. Langeveldt took charge in Ntini’s absence, and when Nel removed Hodge cheaply Australia were in a precarious position. But Ponting decided to light up his hundredth Test, and massacred the tourist attack with some help from Hussey.


The Australian captain combined aggression with discretion and raced to a hundred in his hundredth Test. There was a blemish when Aleem Dar did not give him an almost certain leg-before when he was on 95, but it was a chanceless innings otherwise: the 120 had come in 174 balls.



With the score on 263 for eight with only MacGill and McGrath to bat South Africa had a reason to be happy; they had, however, not accounted for Gilchrist. MacGill, meanwhile, threw his bat at anything dished out at the other end and managed a 21-ball 29, and Gilchrist’s last wicket partnership with McGrath (who remained unbeaten again) yielded another 37.


Gilchrist eventually fell for a 109-ball 86 as Australia managed 359, bailed from the imminent danger that was lurking around. Nel and Kallis impressed with some good bowling, but the damage had probably been done: a draw was the only possible result.


The seamers took out Smith and de Villiers quickly, but when Gibbs bludgeoned a 74-ball 67 it seemed that Smith meant business. Kallis chipped in with 50, and towards the end there was lusty hitting from Boucher and Pollock before Smith set Australia a target of 287 in 76 overs.


The decision stirred the world of cricket: here was a captain, all of 25, setting a challenging target to the champions. He could have opted to save the Test: instead, he wanted to level the series.


The asking rate was 3.78, and Ponting matched Smith’s attitude when Langer and Hayden went all guns blazing at the bowlers. Langeveldt ran through Langer’s defence, but in walked Ponting to the stage that had already been set for him: Australia required 258 at a rate of 4.03.


But it was Ponting’s day, and with Hayden in tow, he made the target look ridiculously easy. “[Ricky] Ponting and [Matthew] Hayden added 182 with such authority and glee that the bowlers might have been insects having their legs pulled off, one by one, by a couple of mischievous eight-year-olds. Hayden eventually tired of the one-sided game and tried to deposit the debutant off-spinner Johan Botha into the stands.”


Nel, who had bowl so well in the first innings, was taken to the cleaners, and poor Botha was not allowed to settle down. By the time Hayden mistimed a lazy stroke off Botha, the target had come down to 76 from 188 balls; Ponting became the first player to score two hundreds in his hundredth Test, and with Hodge joining in the fun, the target was reached with 93 balls to spare.



Smith’s decision had backfired, but the young captain was lauded for his aggressive attitude and the intent to go for the kill. He would later turn out to be one of the most successful captains in the sport.


Stuart Clark was the leading wicket-taker in the 2006 series against South Africa with 20 wickets. Australia won the series 2-1 © Getty Images
Stuart Clark was the leading wicket-taker in the 2006 series against South Africa with 20 wickets. Australia won the series 3-0 © Getty Images

2005-06 in South Africa


Tests: 3


Result: Australia 3, South Africa 0


The return series turned out to be an anticlimax of sorts thanks to the sudden emergence of Stuart Clark in the absence of McGrath: with 20 wickets from three Tests at 15.85 Clark turned out to be the hero of the series. His nagging pinpoint accuracy reminded viewers of McGrath, and he executed his role to pinpoint perfection.


Supporting him were Lee and Warne, and three of them accounted for 52 of the 60 South African wickets in the series. Barring Ntini and a competent Kallis, on the other hand, few South Africans had anything worthy of a note.


South Africa were bowled out 205 (nine batsmen reached double-figures, but nobody went past 31) and 197 (once again, nobody went past 41) at Newlands. Clark announced himself to the grand stage with figures of five for 55 and four for 34, and that was that. Hayden scored 94, Ponting 74, and Symonds biffed his way to a 74-ball 55; Australia led by 103 and romped home with seven wickets to spare on Day Three.


The sides moved on to Kingsmead, and though South Africa put up a better fight, they still lost by 112 runs in the gloom of the final evening under floodlights. Ponting scored his customary hundred — a cautious 103 — and support from Damien Martyn and Hussey took the tourists to a formidable 369.


Kallis fought back with a dour 114, but a Lee five-for saw the South Africa being bowled out for 167 after they were 200 for four. Ponting put the hosts to the sword again, racing to a 187-ball 116 while Hayden added 102 more. The pair added 201 in no time, Gilchrist slogged for a while, and Ponting set the hosts a day and seven overs to chase down 410.


But once again Smith went for it: they added 29 runs before stumps, and the partnership added 91 in 24.4 overs before Warne tossed one up; de Villiers’ foot went over the line and he was given out stumped. Seven runs later Steve Bucknor ruled out Smith leg-before — somewhat unfortunately — against Warne and the collapse began.


Prince played a few strokes, but Warne was too dangerous on the track to be put out: the hosts were reduced to 191 for seven when the omnipresent Boucher finally found company in Nicky Boje; the pair batted on for almost 20 overs, but when Nel walked out to join Boucher there were still an hour and about ten overs of play left.


With the light deteriorating, rain looming in the air, and the floodlights on, the match should ideally have been called off. However, as Wisden wrote, “The senior umpire, Steve Bucknor, steadfastly kept the players on the field with the match drawing to a gripping climax, although on previous days — and in far better conditions — both sides had been offered the light.”


Gilchrist (standing in for Ponting, who was down with food-poisoning) had no option but to bowl Warne and Symonds; the fourth ball of the fifth mandatory over spun across Nel, found the edge, and went to Hayden. 25 balls later Warne finished things off by trapping Ntini leg-before with a googly.


“He [Ntini] didn’t pick it. But in that light, nobody could,” wrote Wisden.


South Africa piled up 303 at New Wanderers, this time capitalising on Prince’s 93. Once again Boje batted well for a 46-ball 43, and Lee and Clark shared three wickets apiece. Drama followed with the first ball of the Australian innings: Ntini bowled a bouncer, and Langer, playing in his hundredth Test, ducked into it without keeping his eyes on the ball. The ball hit Langer on the side of his head: the sickening blow left him concussed well after three days, and he was ruled out of cricket till June.



A pumped-up Ntini (the spearhead of the attack) bowled with fire and soon reduced the visitors to 106 for five (technically six). However, Warne and Lee through their bats around as Hussey made a solid 73, and despite Ntini’s six for 100 South Africa’s lead was restricted to 33.


South Africa batted well with Gibbs, Pollock, and Boucher all contributing handsomely. A target of 292 on a disintegrating wicket was always difficult to chase, especially since Langer was unavailable and Hayden fell to Ntini for a duck. Ponting fell early too, but some quality batting from the Hussey (89) and Martyn (106) helped the tourists reach 198 for two.


After Hussey fell Symonds scored a 26-ball 29, but a furious burst from Ntini (four for 78) saw Australia reduced to 275 for eight as the television cameras spotted Langer padding up. Ponting later admitted that he would have declared if the ninth wicket fell, resulting in a defeat.


Langer, on the other hand, later told in an interview that he had discussed the issue with his wife Sue, and had Ponting declared, the two of them “would not be friends ever again.” The humdinger ended with Lee and Michael Kasprowicz hitting out and sealing a victory for the tourists — a job they had left unfinished a year-and-a-half back at Edgbaston.


Graeme Smith led South Africa brilliantly to beat Australia 2-1 away in the 2008-09 series © Getty Images (File Photo)
Graeme Smith led South Africa brilliantly to beat Australia 2-1 away in the 2008-09 series © Getty Images (File Photo)


2008-09 in South Africa


Tests: 3


Result: South Africa 2, Australia 1


The Australian squad had a completely different look when the South Africans arrived in 2008-09: they no longer had champions like McGrath, Warne, Langer, and Gilchrist in the side, while South Africa no longer had the services of Pollock. Instead, they had another new fast bowler who had leapfrogged to the spearhead’s spot: Dale Steyn.


Australia lost three wickets for 15, but made merry thanks to some gutsy performances from Simon Katich, Michael Clarke, Symonds, and Brad Haddin. Ntini picked up four for 72 and the hosts were bowled out for 375.


The South Africans batted along quite merrily at 234 for three when they suddenly came across a left-arm Queensland fast bowler, playing in his 16th Test: Mitchell Johnson hit the WACA deck hard at intimidating pace, made the ball lift to absurd heights from a length, and finished with eight for 61 — still the best figures by a left-arm fast bowler. South Africa collapsed to 281 following a Johnson spell of five for two from 21 balls.



In response the hosts kept losing wickets till Haddin came good for a second time, blasting his way to a 136-ball 94 with seven fours and four sixes. Jason Krejza, Johnson, and Peter Siddle all contributed, and Haddin helped Australia reach 319 after they were 162 for seven at one stage. South Africa were left to chase 414 — for what would be the second-largest chase of all time — and Smith decided to go for it.


Johnson removed Neil McKenzie early, but a youngster called Hashim Amla came to the forefront with an elegant 53. Smith, meanwhile, had started in ominous fashion, and counterattacked despite the obvious urge to stay put. He played within the V but timed the ball brilliantly, and eventually fell for a 147-ball 108: the stage had been set.


The baton was passed on to Kallis and de Villiers, who kept on scoring runs at a quick pace with their contrasting styles. Kallis (57) became Johnson’s 11th wicket of the match, and when the debutant JP Duminy walked out at 303 for four and batted with utmost conviction the Australian hearts began to sink.


As de Villiers and Duminy piled up the runs the steam went out of the Australian attack: Johnson and Siddle tried hard, Lee fumed in, and Krejza did not hesitate to toss the ball up: but just before tea on Day Five Duminy cover-drove Johnson for three to reach his fifty — and bring up the winning runs — leaving the senior partner unbeaten on 106.


It would have taken an epic effort to defeat Australia in their den, but Smith’s men achieved it quite comfortably in the end.




Ponting started the counterattack with a 126-ball 101 at MCG; Katich, Clarke, and Haddin all contributed, and the hosts piled up an emphatic 394. Bowling with fiery pace, amazing accuracy, and relentless perseverance, Steyn picked up five for 87: it was the first series he was playing against the Aussies.


Smith scored a confident 62, but Siddle and Nathan Hauritz kept on making inroads, reducing the tourists to 141 for six. Batting at eight Morne Morkel hit a few strokes to save the follow-on before Duminy added 67 with a determined Paul Harris. The score was 251 for eight when Steyn walked out to join Duminy.


The pair was, however, not willing to give in: Duminy, the level-headed youngster and Steyn, almost a non-batsman, added a series-changing 180 for the ninth wicket: Ponting tried everything to separate the pair, but nothing seemed to work. South Africa eventually managed a first-innings lead.


When Steyn was finally bowled through the gate by Siddle for 76 Australia had already conceded a lead of 37; Ntini played out 29 deliveries as Duminy brought up his 150 and finally while going for a sweep off Hauritz. His 340-ball essay had spanned 448 minutes, and he had scored 166.



Steyn bowled with fire yet again, but Ponting crept on towards yet another hundred till Morkel struck: the ball rose steeply, Ponting fended it off his back-foot, and was caught by short-cover for 99. Johnson was the only other one to put up an effort as Steyn finished with five for 67.



A target of 183 could have been stiff but Smith went after the ball from the start: by the time Hauritz trapped him leg-before he had scored 75 in 94 balls and South Africa’s target had reduced to 62. McKenzie and Amla scored the remaining runs without much fuss: Australia lost a home series after 16 years.


In the dead-rubber Test at SCG, Clarke’s 138 took Australia to 445 before the tourists were reduced to 193 for five (six, technically, since Johnson had broken Smith’s arm). This time Boucher and Morkel did a Duminy-Steyn and added 115, but Siddle’s maiden five-for reduced the tourists to 327.


Sensing victory Ponting went for quick runs and eventually set South Africa a target of 376 in close to four sessions. Smith sent Morkel to open with McKenzie (perhaps with the intention of keeping the top-order line-up intact), but the fast bowler soon became Doug Bollinger’s maiden Test wicket.


Fifties from Amla and de Villiers did not help as South Africa sunk to 202 for eight when Ntini joined Steyn, and the pair, to everyone’s surprise, clung on. They batted on for a crucial 105 balls and 65 minutes, but when Andrew McDonald trapped Smith leg-before with a minimum of 7.2 overs to be bowled SCG broke into tumultuous applause.


As Wisden wrote, “Some time during [Dale] Steyn’s 65-minute stand with [Makhaya] Ntini the wounded captain borrowed white clothes — the shirt came from [Jacques] Kallis, and a sweater, complete with hamburger stain, from [Paul] Harris — then took off the plastic cast encasing his broken hand and slipped it gingerly into a glove.”


Almost immediately Ponting brought Johnson back into the attack, who bowled with fierce pace: Smith winced and took his left hand away as the ball jarred against the bat, but he hung on. He even kept out a yorker while Ntini, rather gamely, kept the strike. Then, with 11 balls to go Johnson bowled one full, and Smith — injured hand and all — could not bring his bat down in time. The ball hit a crack and the stumps were shattered.



Australia won by 103 runs, but Smith’s heroics had marked the dawn of a new era: the Australians could be beaten, after all. The Smith era took off.


Phil Hughes had a phenomenal debut series against South Africa in 2009 © Getty Images
Phil Hughes had a phenomenal debut series against South Africa in 2009 © Getty Images


2008-09 in South Africa


Tests: 3


Result: South Africa 2, South Australia 1


The return series in South Africa turned out to be a damp squib as Johnson claimed the series for the tourists almost single-handedly: with 255 runs at 85.00 and 16 wicket at 25.00 there was no doubt whatsoever as to who the hero of the victory (and the Man of the Series would be).


Mitchell Johnson scored his only ton in Test cricket against South Africa in the 2009 series © Getty Images
Mitchell Johnson scored his only ton in Test cricket against South Africa in the 2009 series © Getty Images

A new-look Australia piled up 466 at New Wanderers as debutant Marcus North scored 117 while Johnson was left stranded on 96. For South Africa de Villiers scored an unbeaten 104 in response, but Johnson’s four for 25 was good enough to give the tourists a 246-run lead.


Ponting batted again, and this time Phil Hughes came to the party with 75, ensuring the tourists set a target of 454 on a deteriorating track. Smith, McKenzie, Amla, and Kallis all got starts, but that man Johnson intervened again: from a comfortable 206 for two the hosts slid to 291.


Hughes and Katich both scored hundreds at Kingsmead, adding 184 for the opening stand and invoking fond memories of Langer and Hayden in the process. However, Ntini and Steyn cleaned up the tail at an alarming rate, and from 259 for two Australia folded for 352.


Johnson bowled with fire yet again: not only did he remove McKenzie and Amla with his first five balls, he also broke Smith’s little finger, reducing the hosts to six for three (four, if Smith was included). He then hit Kallis under the grille with a bouncer and forced him to retire hurt as well, and the innings went into tatters from there.


Kallis reappeared at the fall of the fifth wicket; with 22 he was one of the two batsmen to go past ten as Duminy single-handedly defied the speedsters with a gutsy 73 not out. Johnson finished with three for 37 (plus the blows) as South Africa conceded a 214-run lead.



Hughes’ first-innings score read 115 in 151 balls; he went a step ahead in the second innings, scoring 160 in 323 balls. There was some clobbering from Ponting and the others, and Ponting asked South Africa to chase 546 or bat out 170 overs.



Siddle rose to the task by removing Amla and McKenzie, but Kallis and de Villiers set up tent and South Africa finished the day on 244 for two. Once Johnson removed Kallis, however, the seamers picked up wickets consistently and Katich picked up three quick wickets at the end to result in a 175-run victory and a series win.


With only the dead rubber to play for, Steyn and, rather surprisingly, Harris routed the tourists for 209. In response Prince scored 150, de Villiers 163, and Kallis, leading South Africa in place of the injured Smith, added 102 more. With Albie Morkel joining in the fun as well, South Africa piled up 651.



The rest of the Test belonged to Harris, who persevered to finish with six for 127 and match figures of nine for 161, winning the Man of the Match award. Johnson thumped his way to a 103-ball 123 not out, but it wasn’t enough to save Australia from the ignominy of an innings defeat.


Vernon Philander (left) picked up 14 wickets in a two-match Test series against Australia in 2011 © Getty Images
Vernon Philander (left) picked up 14 wickets in a two-match Test series against Australia in 2011 © Getty Images


2010-11 in South Africa


Tests: 2


Result: South Africa 1, South Australia 1


There have been series strewn throughout the history of the sport where the quality of cricket had reached heights so staggering that the organisers have taken flak from the fans for the brief duration of the contest. This was one of those humdingers where everything went topsy-turvy and fortune changed for both sides at the briefest of intervals.


The Newlands Test began amidst a lot of drama when Steyn and a debutant called Vernon Philander hit the Australians hard, reducing them to 40 for three when Clarke walked out to join Shaun Marsh. There was swing, there was bounce, but Clarke seemed oblivious to all that: the strokeplay was regal and the dominance absolute; it is considered by many as Clarke’s finest innings — which is saying something given his 2012 heroics.



Australia reached 214 for eight at stumps. Clarke’s 176-ball 151 took Australia to 284 on Day Two, and all seemed to be rather sane despite Rudolph’s early dismissal. South Africa reached 49 for one in the 14th over: then the madness began.


It started with Shane Watson trapping Amla leg-before and Kallis edging one to second slip in the space of five balls (both thanks to reviewed). Smith and de Villiers took the score to 73 when Ryan Harris and Watson kept on striking at regular intervals. Smith was bowled by Watson, and the last seven wickets fell in a heap as the hosts were skittled for 96. The matter had lasted a span of 24.3 overs.



Stranger things were to follow, though: Steyn trapped Watson leg-before in the first over of the innings, and Philander trapped Ponting leg-before for a duck. Smith introduced Morkel, who removed Hughes almost immediately: Australia went to tea at 13 for three — still 201 runs ahead.


Morkel took out Hussey first ball after tea; Clarke’s struggle came to an end when Philander trapped him leg-before, and Haddin followed suit soon afterwards. With Harris, Johnson, and an injured Marsh all falling at the same score, the card read an almost absurd 21 for nine. The Test had witnessed 18 wickets in a span of 22.5 overs.


Suddenly New Zealand’s 26, the lowest team score of all time, seemed to come under threat: Siddle and Nathan Lyon threw their bats around and added 26 in 38 balls to save some embarrassment: in a span of 18 overs Australia were bowled out for a ridiculous 47, leaving the hosts 236 to score. Philander finished with five for 15 to go with his three for 63.



Sanity was restored thereafter (though Siddle claimed Rudolph early). Smith and Amla both slammed hundreds and South Africa galloped to victory before lunch on Day Three. The nine-wicket victory seemed almost unreal, given that they were 49 for one twenty-four hours in the first innings prior to when the match was finished.


Amla, Kallis, and de Villiers all scored fifties as South Africa scored 266 in the second and final Test at Centurion. Watson and Hughes scored 88 apiece, helping add 174 for the opening stand, but once the partnership was broken Steyn kept on making inroads before Imran Tahir polished off the tail. Australia managed a slender 30-run lead.


Smith and Rudolph eradicated the small lead, and a third-wicket partnership between Amla (105) and de Villiers (73) changed the complexion of the match: however, they still had to contend with a tearaway debutant in the form of Pat Cummins. Playing in only his fourth First-Class match, the teenager was used wisely by Clarke in short bursts.


Cummins’ lively pace turned out to be more than a handful for even the likes of Amla and de Villiers. Some resistance came from Steyn, but the debutant scythed through the middle- and lower-middle order to finish with figures of six for 79. Australia were left to score 310.



Philander removed Watson with the second ball and soon followed with the wicket of Hughes, but Ponting stuck in with Usman Khawaja to carve out a 122-run partnership. Following a mad seesaw of events the tourists were reduced to 165 for five, but Haddin dug in, adding 50 with Hussey and 72 more with Johnson.


Philander eventually found Haddin’s edge to pick up his five-for. Siddle came and went, and in the end it was left to Johnson and Cummins to ensure pull off the finishing runs with only Lyon at the dressing-room. Cummins brought up the winning runs with a pull off Tahir, and the series was levelled.


Faf du Plessis played a marathon innings to save South Africa from certain defeat in the Adelaide Test in November 2012. He scored 110 runs off 376 deliveries in 466 minutes to draw the match © Getty Images
Faf du Plessis played a marathon innings to save South Africa from certain defeat in the Adelaide Test in November 2012. He scored 110 runs off 376 deliveries in 466 minutes to draw the match © Getty Images

2012-13 in Australia


Tests: 3


Result: South Africa 1, Australia 0


For once South Africa were the favourites when they reached Australia in 2012-13. South Africa lost Smith early at The Gabba, but even after Alviro Petersen’s dismissal for 64 the Australians had Amla and Kallis to contend with. Duminy, meanwhile, hurt his Achilles’ tendon during a fielding practice session at the end of Day One, reducing the tourists to ten men.


Amla scored 104 and Kallis 147; there was some resistance from de Villiers and Rudolph as well as South Africa reached 450. Steyn and Morkel reduced Australia to 40 for three, but Clarke, in the form of his life, counterattacked in the fiercest possible manner with Ed Cowan for company.


The pair added 259 runs in a shade over 75 overs before Cowan was run out for 136. The misery did not end, as Hussey rubbed it in further with a 129-ball 100, and when Clarke finally declared he had reached 259 from 383 balls: Australia had scored 565 for five — a 115-run lead.


However, with a little over two sessions to play Smith decided to play out time and South Africa finished the Test with 166 for five.


Clarke continued with his double-hundred spree as he scored 230 at Adelaide. The aggression was, of course, started by David Warner, who raced away to a 112-ball 119. With Hussey also scoring 103 Morkel’s persistent bowling (five for 146) went in vain as the hosts amassed 550.



Kallis had been bowling beautifully (3.3-1-19-2) when he injured his hamstring, and batted as low as nine in the when the tourists batted. Smith (122) and Petersen (54) added 138, and a sturdy partnership between debutant Faf du Plessis (78) and Kallis (58) helped South Africa avoid the follow-on.




Australia started 162 runs ahead and soon declared; Clarke set South Africa a target of 430 in 148 overs, and the seamers and Lyon soon reduced the tourists to 45 for four in 21 overs when du Plessis joined his ex-schoolmate de Villiers. The pair added a painstaking 89, but more importantly, they played out 68 of the remaining overs.


de Villiers’ 220-ball 33 remains the longest innings without a boundary (of innings where data is available). When Siddle brought one in to bowl him there were still 59 overs to be bowled: Kallis walked out.


Kallis produced yet another masterpiece — the kind of innings that has defined the man throughout his career. But despite the brave 110-ball 49 amidst the pain South Africa still had close to 20 overs to survive.


Siddle had been bowling relentlessly through the day, and his perseverance eventually paid off when Steyn was caught at mid-wicket off the fast bowler. Six overs later Siddle bowled a scorching yorker that ran through Rory Kleinveldt’s defence and Morkel walked out with exactly four overs to be bowled.


Morkel managed to hang in, and with three balls to go he drove straight, but the Australians allowed the ball to go for four to keep Morkel on strike; Morkel kept out the last two balls, and Siddle (four for 65) had to remain content with a draw. With 50-31-49-3 Lyon’s figures read somewhat unusual by 2012-13 standards, but it all went in vain as the debutant du Plessis saved the Test with a 376-ball unbeaten essay of 110.



With all to play for the teams moved to WACA, and drama ensued from the beginning as the tourists were reduced to 75 for six. Once again du Plessis came to the aid, adding 57 with Robin Peterson and 64 more with Philander. In the end he was left stranded on 78 as the tourists scored 225.


A fuming Steyn cleaned off the Australian top-order in response, leaving the hosts reeling at 45 for six. Hussey hung around for a while, but the real resistance came from Matthew Wade, who thumped 68 in 102 balls. Peterson finished off the tail as Australia conceded a 62-run lead.


In response Smith scored 84, Amla 196, and de Villiers a 184-ball 169 to bat Australia out of the Test. There was a collapse of sorts as Australia were bowled out for 569 after being 436 for three, but a target of 632 in a little over two days seemed almost impossible. On a side note, for the third time (after the ten-fors by Jim Laker and Anil Kumble) all wickets went to bowlers with the same first name (Mitchell Starc had six for 164 while Johnson finished with four for 110).



The rest seemed to follow quickly as Australia went down from 81 for one to 235 for nine when Lyon joined Starc: both batsmen went all-out after the bowlers, especially after poor Peterson, and added 87 for the last wicket in 75 balls. Lyon eventually edged one to Smith off Steyn for 31 while Starc remained unbeaten on a 43-ball 68: Australia crashed to a 309-run defeat and conceded the series.


Read Part 6 of the series here


Read Part 5 of the series here


Read Part 4 of the series here


Read Part 3 of the series here


Read Part 2 of the series here


Read Part 1 of the series here


(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)