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South Africa: Deserving of their World Number 1 tag

836   //    03 Dec 2012, 16:59 IST

The final test match between Australia and South Africa, which was the last test match played by the great Ricky Ponting, started off on a great note.

The final test kickoff was at WACA Perth, considered the fastest pitch in the world. Smith on winning the toss elected to bat on a pitch which was tough to bat on.

The South African opening pair started the game on a good note as they were 36 for no loss at the end of 11 overs. Watson tasted first blood as he took the wicket of skipper Smith. Amla and Petersen tried to steady the ship but they just managed a 30 run partnership before Petersen got out off the bowling of debutant Starc. Suddenly South Africa lost 5 wickets in a flash, and from 60/1 they were down to 75 for 6 with the debutant Elger getting out for a duck. Australians seemed to have everything in control but then du Plessis steadied the ship for South Africa with handy partnerships with Philander and Robin Peterson. South Africa ended on a score of 225, with Lyon being the pick of the bowler with 3 wickets.

South African pace bowlers looked far more dangerous than the Australian pace men and Australians were 6 down before the score reached 50. Mathew Wade denied South Africans complete control of the game as he scored a quick-fire 68 runs to keep the South African lead below 100 and managed a handy partnership with Hastings. Steyn was the pick of the bowlers with 4 Australian wickets, while Robin Peterson played an important role in winding up the tail.

South Africans changed their game plan in the second innings, as they started to attack the bowlers and in the process they lost the wicket of Alviro Peterson for a great catch by Johnson off his own bowling. But the South Africans didn’t change their strategy and continued attacking. Hashim Amla walked in after the fall of Peterson, started to counter attack the Australian bowling and made them think. The pair of Amla and Smith put up a 178 run partnership in just 153 balls. Smith got out to a bouncer and to a great catch by Lyon in the deep. They scored at a run rate of more than 6. Australian bowlers didn’t have any clue about what was going on. Kallis replaced Smith and continued the counter attack with Amla. Kallis got out just 20 runs short of his 13000th run off the bowling of Starc. AB De Villiers, who had not scored a half century after he had started ‘keeping, answered all his critics with the bat. Amla was very unfortunate to get out on 196 off the bowling of Johnson because of a great reflex catch.

de Villiers continued to bat aggressively and  scored his 14th test hundred and then increased his scoring rate and started to score runs quickly. In the process, he scored 21 fours and 3 sixes. At last, South Africa got all out for 569 and the target for Australia was 632. Pick of the bowlers was Starc who took his first five wicket haul while Johnson complimented Starc well with his 4 wickets.

It was a very tough task ahead for the Australians as the pitch was still assisting the bowlers and the edges still carrying to the slip cordon. With two more days to go, South Africans were the favorites for the match. South Africans started the day very well as they took the wicket of David Warner off the 2nd ball of the day and Australians were never comfortable with the bowling of the South African pace trio. After losing the wicket of Watson, Ponting walked out to the center to bat for the last time in his career and started off strongly with his trade mark pull shot, but couldn’t hang on for long as he got out just before lunch off the bowling of Robin Peterson. Ponting received a great farewell as every one in the South African team walked up to him and congratulated him and he received a great applause from the crowd when he was walking back to the pavilion.

Ed Cowan completed his half century but then got out to a trap set by the South Africans as he pulled a shot straight into the hands of the bowler Steyn. South Africans kept taking wickets and Australia were 235 for 9 at one stage. And then Starc struck some lusty blows with Lyon and he reached his 1st half century and his highest score in his first class career. This pair delayed victory for South Africa with a partnership of 87 runs. All South African bowlers shared the wickets as Steyn and Robin Peterson took three each while Morkel and Philander picked up two wickets each.

With South Africa winning the test series 1-0 in Australia, they keep their World test no. 1 tag. South Africans were too good at Perth while Australians had their moments in Adelaide but the great innings of Faf du Plessis saved the test match for the Proteas. It was a great Test series and Clarke was at his best as he scored two double centuries in this test series and thus was named Man of the Series.

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