After hours of intense effort on a grudging surface the Australians secured a handsome victory by 162 runs over notoriously slow-starting opponents punished for their poor play on the opening days. Lacking the giants of yesteryear, the visitors relied on blood, sweat and tears to break South Africa and it paid dividends in this first Test. A persevering pace attack steadily worked its way through determined resistance until the final wicket was taken soon after tea. The result will reverberate around the cricketing world. Australian cricket might not be back in business but it is not going down the drain.
Resuming at 178 for 2 the capable overnight pair advanced in dribs and drabs to 206 before wickets started to tumble. Trying to push the score along, Hashim Amla flicked to mid-wicket to give Peter Siddle his first wicket of the day. Like Merv Hughes, the Victorian wood-chopper has a huge heart, plenty of pace and an ability to stir up crowds. Sensing an opportunity, Australia started to press. Superb in the first innings and determined to become the best batsman around, AB De Villiers was swiftly undone by an off-cutter from Andrew McDonald, a tall red-head able to exploit wearing pitches. De Villiers asked for a referral but it merely delayed his departure. No serious injustices were suffered in the match. The system needs to be touched up, not torn down.
Meanwhile Jacques Kallis was building a castle around his wicket and it took the second new ball to shift him. First he was adjudged leg-before to Mitchell Johnson as the ball kept low and then reprieved as the third umpire decided the ball had landed an inch outside leg stump. Failing to take advantage of his fortune, the great all-rounder off-drove expansively and edged on to his stumps. Johnson's improving inswinger, height and stamina made him an awkward proposition all day.
To the dismay of a crowd of 9,468, South Africa had subsided to 229 for 5. Thoughts of victory had become a distant dream. Although lacking spite, the pitch was not as accommodating as Perth – and the same could be said about the bowling.
Thereafter the end was nigh, JP Duminy held firm until directing a lifter towards the cordon. After 135 minutes of defiance, Mark Boucher drove loosely at a Ben Hilfenhaus off-cutter. In between, Morne Morkel threw his wicket away with a silly pull and, for all his promise, his place is in jeopardy.
The Australians moved in for the kill. Paul Harris was smartly held at short leg and the celebrations began as Dale Steyn was uprooted by Johnson, a straightforward nomination as man of the match. It was an impressive though not imposing win for Ricky Ponting's resurgent outfit, a disappointing though not devastating defeat for the Proteas.Reuse content