Smith battered and beaten as Australia win

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The Independent Online

South Africa skipper Graeme Smith has revealed he had to bat in a borrowed pullover stained with hamburger juices after his unexpected appearance at the crease in a bid to halt Australia's late push for victory in the third Test.

Smith, who broke his left hand in the first innings and was also nursing an injured right elbow, batted at number 11 as the Proteas went within 10 balls of pulling off one of the greatest escape acts in world cricket.

The captain, along with tail-ender Makhaya Ntini (28 not out), held Australia at bay for 29 minutes before he was bowled by Mitchell Johnson in the penultimate over of a dramatic game.

Smith revealed he had not planned to bat at all but was caught up in the emotion of his team's gutsy rearguard campaign.

"I didn't really expect to go out. Deep inside I didn't really want to get out there," he admitted after Australia's thrilling 103-run win.

"I probably decided 25 overs out, 26 overs out (that I was going to bat).

"I arrived here without any kit and had some pants I'd shoved into my cricket bag to protect my bats.

"I stole a shirt off Jacques (Kallis) and a pullover off Harry (Paul Harris) that still had his hamburger stain on the front left side of it.

"I had Morne (Morkel) dressing me and putting my shoes on and pads.

"I decided I was going to give it a go and give it my best shot and if I got a first-baller or whatever at least I tried.

"Obviously there's a lot of pain. Once one ball hit the bat I thought 'okay, that's one out the way'.

"(I told myself) 'just keep watching the ball and hoping that it hits the bat the whole time'.

"It was about getting out there and doing the best you can."

Smith and Ntini looked to have done enough to stave off defeat before Johnson got one to jag back and bowl the Proteas captain six minutes from stumps.

Smith refused to use his injuries as an excuse for his dismissal.

"He probably would have got me if I had both arms available," he declared. "It cut back off a crack (and) Mitchell has bowled superbly all series.

"I saw they were having a little group meeting just before that over and I was hoping that they were going to give the ball to someone else."

South Africa still took the series 2-1 following victories in Perth and Melbourne and Smith conceded the Sydney Test was one that got away.

"We had our opportunities in the game early on," he said.

"We dropped our catches for the first time in a long time and it probably cost us the game.

"It was part of a great series, this finish, and it sets up a terrific home series in South Africa."

Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes his team deserved the victory.

"It's great to come away with a really hard-fought win, there's no doubt that through the course of the five days we've had the better of this Test match and I think we thoroughly deserved to win this game," he said.

"It's very pleasing for me to see some of the young guys come into the team for this game and to start off with a win is what you always hope for the younger guys coming in.

"So it's been a really rewarding period for the young guys in particular.

"I'm very proud of the way we bounced back to tell you the truth. It's always hard coming back in a series when you're 2-0 down and have probably been in positions in the first two games that you could have won Test matches as well.

"It says a lot about the character of the side to get back up off the canvas and put up a performance like we have this week."

The skipper also defended his side's performance throughout the opening two Tests of a memorable series.

"We haven't been that far away, it could have easily been a 2-1 result our way as well," he said.

"We haven't been that bad really, there's been a lot of negativity around about us, and sure we've had some situations that we could have played a lot better cricket in and probably could have ourselves changed the result.

"But you've got to give South Africa some credit for the way they did it in Perth with the run chase and the way they turned things around in Melbourne as well."