Graeme Smith hoped his captain's knock that led South Africa to a spectacular victory in the first Test in Cape Town yesterday would finally silence his critics, while his Australian counterpart Michael Clarke lambasted his team for an abysmal performance.
Chasing 236 for an unlikely win after a bizarre second day in which 23 wickets fell and parts of all four innings took place, Smith (101 not out) and Hashim Amla (112) propelled the hosts to an eight-wicket victory at Newlands.
The tourists had established a 188-run lead, after skittling South Africa for 96 in the first innings, but were then promptly bowled out for 47 – their lowest Test total in 109 years.
However, Australia's humiliating collapse allowed Smith's men to redeem themselves in a Test that had appeared to be a lost cause. "I couldn't imagine winning from that position, it's got to be one of the greatest comebacks in Test history," said Smith, who was severely criticised following South Africa's failure at the World Cup earlier this year.
He was also attacked for flying to Ireland to get engaged at the end of the 50-over tournament, rather than returning straight home. "It's been a really tough period and I hope I've managed to win a few people over. It's up there for me in terms of individual performances. One or two things said about me hurt a lot, they were personal and crossed the line. But that's the nature of the job and I had to knuckle down."
Clarke said Australia failed in every department in the match. "I've never been more disappointed. If anyone in our team does not have pain eating away at them now, they shouldn't be playing sport," he said.Reuse content