Not even a buccaneering innings from Mitchell Johnson could prevent South Africa securing an outstanding victory. Nor could the swashbuckling left-hander stop the Australians suffering their first innings defeat since the Kolkata Test match of 1998. A persistent spell from Paul Harris proved decisive as the tall spinner kept a length, varied his pace and worried all the mainstream batsman. The Proteas secured victory in the third Test here by an innings and 20 runs with 10 minutes of the fourth day to spare.
Johnson was astonishing. Joining forces with Andrew McDonald shortly before tea after their team had subsided to 218 for 6, he laid about himself with gusto. Combining scintillating off-drives with cleanly struck pulls, the tall left-hander belted the ball around and reached his first Test century as he lifted his 86th ball into the stands. Johnson's batting abilities have been recognised but his partner was a revelation as he drove, pulled and cut with unsuspected panache. After a wary start the pair added 163 in 26.3 overs and were not parted until McDonald went into his shell as his team-mate hit the supposedly nervous nineties.
Although memorable, a last session producing 191 runs and four lower-order wickets could not disguise the size of the defeat suffered by the visitors. An abject batting performance on the opening day and a carelessly constructed squad cost them dear.
Nothing in the early exchanges on the fourth day suggested drama lay ahead. Michael Hussey and Simon Katich tried to eke out runs against a pinpoint attack. Katich contributed one run in the first hour, and that the result of Harris' drop at gully.
Harris' ability to make batsmen miss straight balls and play rash shots returned to haunt the tourists. Katich drove to deep mid-off and Brad Haddin lofted to deep mid-on. Hussey stabbed Dale Steyn's lifter to gully and the paceman struck again as Michael Clarke drove loosely.
Then came the exuberant partnership for the seventh wicket. Ultimately, it merely delayed a dismal defeat. Finally, McDonald and Peter Siddle were held at silly point and Bryce McGain was chaotically run out by Sybrand Engelbrecht. As the sun disappeared so Ben Hilfenhaus was snared at slip to give Harris a sixth wicket. It only remained for Steve Bucknor to kiss the pitch and leave the ground for the last time. The other victor was a referral system that corrected several of the veteran's mistakes.