Big win confirms South Africa as No. 1
- Published on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 06:44
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South Africa (Cricinfo): To crib a line from E.T.'s Elliot, this is reality. South Africa embossed their No. 1 ranking with a fearful hiding of Australia in the series-deciding third Test in Perth, and not even the torrent of goodwill sent Ricky Ponting's way on his final day as an international cricketer could prevent resounding confirmation that the hosts remain a long way short of genuine aspirations to be the best team in the world. Three-hundred-and-nine runs short, in fact.
Ponting made an emotional last appearance at the Test match batting crease - fittingly afforded a guard of honour by Graeme Smith - but his final tally of eight was as unsatisfying as the rest of the day for Australia, as they failed completely to cope with the dimensions of a world-record run chase, or alternatively the need to bat for two days to save the match. The Ponting episode was a brief interlude in a day characterized by South Africa's unrelenting attack on the batsmen.
In the end it was the No. 10 Mitchell Starc who top scored with a freewheeling 68, entertainment for the crowd but an indictment on those before him. Only the obdurate Ed Cowan stood his ground for any length of time, but even he had reason to curse the manner of his departure, hooking at Dale Steyn and being taken at deep square leg.
Others were out in similarly cavalier manner without applying themselves for anywhere near as long, as Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Robin Peterson benefited from the pressure applied by each other. Peterson's left-arm spin was a particular delight for the visitors, drift, turn and bounce perhaps earning him a more permanent Test place ahead of the looser leg breaks of Imran Tahir.
South Africa's victory was just reward for a persistent campaign that showed an experienced understanding of Test cricket's nature as a game where how a team starts is far less critical than how one finishes. Passive at times in Brisbane and Adelaide, the visitors reached the WACA ground with the series all square thanks to the magnificent defiance of Faf du Plessis, and in the decider showed an instinct for the kill that underlined their ultimate superiority.
South Africa 225 (du Plessis 78*) and 569 (Amla 196, de Villiers 169, Smith 84, Starc 6-154) beat Australia 163 (Wade 68, Steyn 4-40) and 322 (Starc 68*, Cowan 53, Steyn 3-72, Peterson 3-127) by 309 runs