Ponting oversees rebirth of a nation

Australia 352 & 331-5d South Africa 138 & 370-9 <i>(Aus win by 175 runs)</i>
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The Independent Online

A rousing morning session took Australia to a decisive victory at Durban. It was a richly deserved win that allows them to retain bragging rights in the world rankings. Armed with the second new ball the visitors burst through the home side's top order and thereafter the outcome was inevitable. Eventually the Proteas were winkled out for 370 to give the tourists victory by 175 runs and a 2-0 lead in the series. Accordingly the eagerly awaited Cape Town Test has been rendered redundant.

It has been a notable fight back by a vigorous, distinctively Australian side containing an allotment of blue collar pace bowlers and back foot batsmen from the outback. Add a canny spinner and better catching and they will be hard to beat. South Africa were left to regret a slow start, and the loss of their captain and two tosses. The hosts also seemed complacent.

Realising that the first hour was going to be critical as the new ball hopped about, the Australians began purposefully with Mitchell Johnson extracting bounce and cut from a pitch inclined to take a siesta in the afternoon. Ben Hilfenhaus, though, almost took the first wicket as Jacques Kallis lashed to cover where Michael Clarke grassed a sitter. Hilfenhaus must have kicked several cats before this match. Australia did not pay for Clarke's lapse. Five runs later Kallis (93 in 175 balls) was uprooted by a lifter that shaved the shoulder of his bat and was grabbed by Ricky Ponting at second slip.

Peter Siddle took up the cudgels, producing a precisely pitched outswinger that drew a wary defensive stroke from AB De Villiers (84 in 199 balls). Twenty minutes later victory should have been sealed as JP Duminy tickled another Siddle bolter only for the catch to be dropped behind the wicket. Brad Haddin's work has been unimpressive and it is unwise of him to keep diving in front of the cordon.

Eventually Duminy gloved a snorter from Hilfenhaus and as the soup was served so Paul Harris tugged a Simon katich bosie to mid-on. Mark Boucher took the match deep into the afternoon with a typically tenacious innings. By now Ponting had decided to dispense with referrals. Boucher was taken on the back foot by Johnson's inswinger and the visitors did not bother with an objection after Billy Bowden shook his head.

An hour after lunch Ponting recalled his occasional spinners and it did the trick as Boucher (25 in 107 balls) shuffled a catch back to Marcus North, Morne Morkel prodded at Katich and Dale Steyn swung lustily at the wrist-spinner.

Ponting's captaincy was vibrant and effective. In danger of leading his side down the hill, he has instead launched the recovery. His team has a sturdy pace attack, hard working batsmen and a willingness to live within its means. Moreover, the referee has not once been called into action this summer.

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