Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day

South Africa rightly the best side - Clarke

Brydon Coverdale at the WACA

December 3, 2012

Comments: 45 | Text size: A | A

In the end, the best team won. Not the team that played best in Brisbane or Adelaide. But unquestionably the team that dictated proceedings in Perth, and the team that before this series started, and after it ended, were ranked No.1 in the world. The gap between South Africa and Australia may not be enormous, but over the past few days at the WACA, Graeme Smith's men showed Michael Clarke's players why they have reached the top.

By owning the second day of this grand final, South Africa owned the series, and the Test championship mace that went with it. By dismissing the Australians for 163 on a good batting pitch, Dale Steyn and his colleagues made the previous 11 days of the series irrelevant. Australia were four wickets from victory at the Gabba, but would South Africa have played the same way if the second day hadn't been washed out? The hosts were two wickets from a win in Adelaide, but South Africa were good enough to deny them.

And when the Australians had to dig themselves out of a hole in Perth, they were unable to. The bowlers found the going tough as the South Africans piled up 565 in the second innings, but the damage was done when Australia had batted. In defeat, Australia's captain Michael Clarke conceded that his side had failed to make use of the upper hand they held so often in the series.

"I don't want to take anything away from South Africa," Clarke said. "They showed why they're the No.1 Test team in the world. On the other hand I want to pay credit to the Australian boys to be able to fight it out so tough and stay strong up until this Test match. What South Africa showed us is when they had momentum, they ran with it for as long as they possibly could and when they didn't have [it], they did everything in their power to fight their backsides off to try and grab it back.

"There's probably a few occasions throughout the series where we had momentum and didn't run with it for long enough, that's for sure. Against these teams, the best teams, you can't afford to do that … There's plenty of pros and cons and that's something we need to do over the next few days, to assess where we continue to improve and the positives we can take from this series, the areas we need to get better if we want to be the No.1 team in the world."

One of those areas is glaringly obvious. The failure of Australia's top three to provide consistently strong starts is becoming a major problem. In this series, Australia's totals at three wickets down were 40, 55, 91, 34 and 102. That makes life tough for the middle order, and for the bowlers who must then keep the opposition in check in the same way. At the WACA, that was too much to ask of an attack featuring Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, debutant John Hastings and Nathan Lyon.

"I don't want to take anything away from the Australian bowlers, I thought they bowled really well in the first innings and tried their backside off on a flat wicket in the second innings," Clarke said. "I believe the reason we didn't give ourselves the best chance of winning this Test match is because of the way we batted in our first innings."

The missed opportunity to reclaim the No.1 Test ranking hurt the Australians even more given they wanted to provide Ricky Ponting with a fitting send-off. The challenge for Clarke and Australia's coach Mickey Arthur is now to move on to the Sri Lankan series that begins next week, and to find inspiration without their most capped player being part of the setup.

"It's been a tough week, that's for sure," Clarke said. "I still don't think it's hit the players fully yet. I think it will come the first Test against Sri Lanka when we walk out on the field and see he's not there. It's not just about what he does on the field, it's also off the field, around training sessions, in the change-room, his help, advice, guidance, is something that can't be replaced."

Like Clarke, Ponting endured a series loss to South Africa at home when he was captain. Four years ago, Smith's men chased down 414 in Perth, one of Test cricket's most epic achievements, and it set up their winning tour. Within a year, they were the No.1 team in the world. Another Perth triumph has kept them there.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by rehmanf on (December 5, 2012, 18:17 GMT)

SAF were never troubled in the series. They showed they were #1 test team in the world. Yes they had pressure in the second test match only because of Clarke's batting brilliance. If Clarke does not perform AUS will loose, we saw that in PERTH.

AUS's best chance of regaining the ASHES will only be after they correct their batting order. Top three best batsman of the team should play at the top 4 of the batting order like SAF. 1. Watson 2. Warner 3. Clarke 4. Hussey 5. Khawaja 6. Cowan 7. Haddin/Wade. Coach/Captain can shuffle Watson with Cowan if they feel there is too much pressure on the allrounder as an opener.

Posted by Amol_Ind_SA on (December 5, 2012, 16:39 GMT)

After not missing a single SA v AUS Test series since 2001 till today, I can confidently say that the only guy between SA's victory path was the great Shane Warne. He was th eonly difference between the two teams. He used to change the match on Day 5...so SA were always under psychological pressure till Day 5.

Posted by crashed on (December 5, 2012, 13:57 GMT)

hmmm as an South African i do not see any South African supporter comparing this team with the windies/Ausies of yesteryear - every1 says stop comparing them but by saying that you do exactly that - this is a great team but by no means can this team (or any other team) be compared to those yet - even though we have only lost 1 test series - to same Ausies we have beaten now 2x in their own backyard - in 6 years, but i have yet to see a south african supporter to compare this team to the ausies and windies - must say all this hype does make me proud to be a south african :) when the next number 1 team rises to the top - THEN I hope every1 say stop comparing the new number 1 team with the windies/ausies/saffa team of yesteryear - then we will be where it matters - with the legends ;)

Posted by 4cricketluv on (December 5, 2012, 12:18 GMT)

I have enjoyed watching this series. It had everything expected of a good thriller and the Adelaide test was one of the best I have ever watched. There is a maturity about this team that was lacking in past years. Gone are the days when a young Graeme Smith would react (sometimes so foolishly) to the provocative pre-match talk of other teams, Australia in particular. Now they just go about their bussiness in a very quiet and professional manner. They have done that in England and now in Australia repeated same. I am sure the Australians and other teams continue to sledge and try to unnerve opposition batsmen but it seems to have had little effect on the SA batsmen this time. Just think what Faf Du Plessis had to put up with in his marvelous innings in Adelaide. This team is great, maybe not the best yet. I am sure they are working on it every single day. We hope for a good recovery for JP Duminy and maybe we'll see Quinton de Kock coming through sometime soon in the future. Go well!

Posted by mthi4life on (December 5, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

The Proteas are a good team,as a South African I know that they do not come close to the West Indies and the Australian sides of the past.It's only when you compare the with other teams currently that you realize that there is no other team currently that can claim to be better than them.

Posted by crh8971 on (December 5, 2012, 3:23 GMT)

To me a ranking of about 3 or 4 is right for Australia in test cricket. If you recall the great Aussie team of the 90's and 2000's they were a very settled team with many automatic selections; Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Waugh, Gilchrist, McGrath, Warne, Gillespie, Martyn and others were all automatic selections for a long period of time with no debate from fans or media. Now It could be argued that the only certain selections are Clarke and Hussey with question marks over every other spot in the team. SA and England to me are rightfully ranked above Australia and have very settled teams. For SA Smith, A Petersen, Amla, Kallis, DeVillers, Steyn, Morkel and Phillander are all absolute certainties with Duminy now close to that when fit. Their only real questions are who is the spinner and does AB keep. Similarly for England Cook, Trott, Peterson, Bell, Prior, Anderson, Broad,and Swan are all very certain selections. Both teams have good batting line ups but for me SA has better pace

Posted by harshthakor on (December 5, 2012, 3:02 GMT)

Congratulations to South Africa for acheiving one of their most thumping triumphs of all time in Australia.They stuck to the task throughout the game with the professionalism of a winning team.They deserve to be at the top of the test cricket world with their succcesive triumphs in England and Australia.

Morally,however the series should have been a drawn as the Aussies outplayed the Proteas in the 1st 2 tests and all but one the 2nd.In my view to have been an outstanding champion team the Proteas should have atleast displayed overwhelming superiority ion 2 of the 3 test matches.Australia were also at a disadvanatage losing the cream of their pace attack in the last test and Pattinson in the 2nd test when they were on the doorstep of victory.

No doubt South Africa would have stayed on the top with a drawn rubber,but to me even if they are the best team I would not compare them with the champion Australian teams of the recent past or the West Indian teams of yesteryears.

Posted by simonviller on (December 5, 2012, 1:26 GMT)

What's with all the excuses about Australia's attack ? How much better do you want an attack to be ,with Starc and Johnson bowling so well ? The truth is ,inconsistant batting cost Australia dearly , with Ponting failing miserably and other top order bats underperforming ; why wasn't Khawaja given another chance ? It's my opinion that PONTING WAS GIVEN AN ULTIMATUM BY THE SELECTORS IN ORDER TO SAVE HIM THE AGONY OF BEING DROPPED ,and this should open the door for the afore mentioned .

Posted by Meety on (December 5, 2012, 1:17 GMT)

@Keith LR - the point I was making was you said "...currently the best side in the world, by some distance..." - some distance implies a long way, which is not a measurable fact. For all Sth Africa did in this series, (in winning it), they were under pressure by a side that went well against them, a 1nil scoreline does not suggest a side being that much better than Oz. Sth Africa had some hurdles, so too did Oz. I look forward to future battles (hopefully over 5 Tests).

Posted by Mitcher on (December 4, 2012, 22:45 GMT)

@Hammond: Will England show whose really the best in the world - then go on a monumental losing streak? Again? The poms will never create a truly great side because they get so excited with mediocrity that it always comes crashing down so quickly.

Posted by ygkd on (December 4, 2012, 20:20 GMT)

I thought @landl47's assessment pretty true. Australia has much work to do. South Africa are the best side and deserve their number 1 status, even if they did underperform at certain stages of this series.

Posted by   on (December 4, 2012, 15:29 GMT)

The real edge the great Aussie team of the Waugh/Ponting era had over this current S.A side is the Warne factor.The way the Proteas dismantles Australia in Perth was almost alarming and absolutely comprehensive-the kind of defeat that leaves mental scars,causes players to rethink their future in the game and leaves team management in disarray.

The big factor for S.A will be Kallis and how to replace him inevitably in the next few years.Of course a match winning spinner is handy but there just aint one .

Posted by Indiana_jones99 on (December 4, 2012, 12:44 GMT)

@Hammond, don't bury your head in Sand. Your distant memory of 2010/11 series is very good. BUT haven't you forgotten about the 2-0 Hammering you received at HOME less than six months ago. Probably ENGLAND will be thrashed again when you meet SA next time. SA have shown how to be No.1. It is pathetic to relinquish the NO.1 status within a year rather meekly.

Posted by   on (December 4, 2012, 11:46 GMT)

@Meety. Currently this SA side is ahead of everybody else below them. That is fact. Man for man, CURRENTLY there is no team that can match them. Argue? I will not compare this SA side to the rampant aussies of the past. That was a fantastic side littered with legends and monumental performances. They deserve all the accolades that they got. In my opinion we will not see any side dominate the way that Aussie side (or that might Windies team before Aussies) did and that, in my opinion, is good for cricket.

Posted by Meety on (December 4, 2012, 10:59 GMT)

The heading really says it all. Clarke was full of praise for Sth Africa - they deserve it. @Keith Le Roux - "...the Aussies have been dismantled, by currently the best side in the world, by some distance..." Whilst I have full respect for what Sth Africa have done on the road over the last 6 months, you are going to get a rude shock IF you really think Sth Africa are that far ahead of the rest of the top 6! Oz 5 to 10 years ago were clearly the best team in the world - they on TWO occasions won 16 straight Tests. Sth Africa struggle to win TWO in a row. They deserve the #1 spot - but are not that far ahead of the rest. @Wesley Lazerus - Oz are still going thru adjustments, it will be interesting to see how the newbies go that will be drafted into the team over the next 12 to 18 mths. I have my fingers crossed that some time in the next 12mths we get our best pace attack on the park for an extended run. If we achieve that, we can overcome some deficiencies in our batting - IMO!

Posted by Samdanh on (December 4, 2012, 10:08 GMT)

Well done Clarke. It cannot be denied that Australia could have won this series 2-1, had one day not been lost to rain in Brisbane and had Pattinson not been injured and had not been lost from begiining of SA's first innings in second Test. It is very positive to note Clarke appreciating SA for their great victory in Perth without diluting the credit by referring to rain in Brisbane or missing Pattinson from first innings of SA in Adelaide. Superb sportmanship from a great cricketer.

Posted by floorwalker007 on (December 4, 2012, 9:51 GMT)

It's sad to say the least that cricket lovers won't give credit where it is due.

Flat pitches or no, Steyn and Philander the two top ranked bowlers showed that there are always wickets to be had. Line and length and an upright seam will always trouble batsmen (yes, even on Indian pitches).

Batting wise we have top class batsmen that are prolific in their batting positions all the way down. Du Plessis joining that line-up and Duminy to return.

@hammond and the other unbelievers! Believe me that South Africa will not be losing a series for at least the next three years. The only reason that Australia or England would catch up is because they play a hell of a lot more tests than South Africa do. So suck it up and enjoy some good cricket.

Posted by   on (December 4, 2012, 9:28 GMT)

@Hammond. The Saffers totally dominated the SA A team when last in England. (Actually, last 2 tours in that sunny land of overseas players or the united nations).

The poms were bashed and now the Aussies have been dismantled, by currently the best side in the world, by some distance.

Pity that petty jealousy has to enter the fray!

That having been, said this same SA side demolished england, in their own backyard but struggled a little against the Aussies. Now, using your wonderful powers of observation and by you own theory, this aus side must obviously be better than the eng side so easily trashed by the Saffers?

Posted by Clutch on (December 4, 2012, 8:22 GMT)

A lot has been said about Aus fielding a second string attach in Perth, but it must be said that they were forced into this situation by the SA batting in the Adelaide test who made them bowl such a huge amount of overs. The reality of the series is that both teams get picked from the best sides available, at the end of the series it was 1-0 to SA and well deserved.

IMO, a good comparison would have to be the Aus batting in Perth to SA in Adelaide, the rain ruined the 1st test and SA did what they had to after realizing no result was possible. But the batting comparison in the last two tests is interesting, both batting line ups were effectively out of the contest with a win unlikely, so it was all about survival which is often way more difficult than batting without restraint. That is why the SA effort in the 2nd test was as good a performance as any. The mental toughness displayed there was as good a cricket performance as any in the series.

Posted by Newlandsfaithful on (December 4, 2012, 8:21 GMT)

Actually SA came into this series rather underprepared. Philander couldn't find form at all. Batsmen seemed clueless. Many of us were hoping that there would be a change in coaching staff. Even in the last test they weren't 100% carrying Elgar. SA is a class team that deserves to be on top.

Posted by ultimatewarrior on (December 4, 2012, 6:54 GMT)

this lost match shows that even Oz are themselves uncomfortable on a sporting pitch as they were scoring heavily on 1st 2 matches (flat wickets or just seaming in morning)....also they had left 3 main bowlers (although suffering heavily in 1st 2 matches) in last match and gamble of idea having fresh bowlers not paid them.......this hard fought series has reminded me changing the ruler series of aus & west indies in west indies (90s)....

Posted by   on (December 4, 2012, 6:28 GMT)

Australia have time to address issues before the Ashes and hopefully they get the balance right between bat and ball.

Batting wise, Clarke and Hussey need to be elevated to 3 and 4 with Watson down at 5 or 6, They need to find a solid number 5 or 6 in that event depending on where you want to play Watson. At the top David Warner is not very convincing and seems to lack a plan B, surely there are other options in the domestic setup. Wicketkeeping, don't know if Wade is necessarily the best option but time will tell.

Bowling wise, Siddle, Lyon, Watson seem certain, its up to Starc, Pattinson, Johnson, Hazelwood, Hastings and Hilfenhaus to make up the deficit but all are untested or unfit for test match cricket's rigors, Siddle and Lyon seem to be the only bowlers capable of long innings at maximum effort.

Posted by Jabulani on (December 4, 2012, 6:27 GMT)

I find it interesting how people claim they dominated a side but lost the series 1-0...

Posted by crashed on (December 4, 2012, 5:39 GMT)

@Hammond to be the best you must beat the best in England South Africa just did that a few months ago even when every1 said England dominated the last 2 tests - here in Australia we beat the best that Australia had to offer even if every1 say they dominated the first two tests .... if you want the mace come and earn it, i am sure the other cricket playing nations want that mace as well so happy hunting all the best of luck to you

Posted by Wallaroo on (December 4, 2012, 5:02 GMT)

Actually South Africa dominated all three. If you can't take your foe down with the biggest and most powerful of hammers, if you can't win from a winning position then you've been dominated. South Africa dominated mentally in the first 2 tests, our collective opinion that they are chokers was proven horribly wrong and came back to bite us in the bum. We were then dominated physically and mentally in the 3rd. Hopefully in the future we'll be less judgemental and more prepared for battle by showing a lot more respect. Graeme Smith actually showed Australia respect by not declaring, we took it as unsporting behaviour. Why because our inept media said it was.

We have the personnel, time for us to mature. Maturity is what will propel us.

Posted by Mary_786 on (December 4, 2012, 3:55 GMT)

Our batting is the worry, and for me the likes of Khawaja and Quiney need to be looked at closely as Punter's replacment

Posted by anver777 on (December 4, 2012, 3:55 GMT)

Congrats!!! SA proved once again that they best in tests......... a good positive approach by Amla & Smith made the difference in the crucial decider.

Posted by wix99 on (December 4, 2012, 3:17 GMT)

As mentioned there are huge question marks over Australia's top order. Shane Watson is yet to contribute a big score from the number three position. Dave Warner may be a brilliant batsman, but does he have the temperament required to open in Test cricket?

Posted by satish619chandar on (December 4, 2012, 3:05 GMT)

Australia were back to their detoriating style. During the Ashes 2009, they actually had England staring at loss atleast for two games and dominated them without winning the game. In the end, England managed to win when they were up and closed out the matter. Though Australia were the team which win more sessions, game still ended up in draw. But when they were low, they just lost it. The killer instinct completely vanished. A hard fought draw will dampen the spirits of Aussies for the entire series for sure. Last two Ashes, this series says it all. Find the mojo and claim your top position Aussies.

Posted by Street_Hawk on (December 4, 2012, 2:39 GMT)

I think Australia did really well...I don't know why people are forgetting that they played the perth test without their all of first choice bowlers - Siddle, Pattinson and Hilfenhaus..SA played against a second string bowling unit...Let's remove Steyn, Philander and Morkel from their side and let's see how they do with Kleinveldt and Tsotsobe and McLaren. That being said, it's no joke to win against Australia in Australia...India just got whitewashed there

Posted by Ben1989 on (December 4, 2012, 1:31 GMT)

@Hammond, I would love to see where he said that, because we put up a better fight than the poms did...........

Posted by Hammond on (December 4, 2012, 1:23 GMT)

Interesting thing is England actually dominated pretty much this same side in 2010/11- South Africa only managed 1 test win out of 3. I think England will show who really is the best side in the world very shortly.

Posted by PeteB on (December 4, 2012, 0:52 GMT)

It's absolutely right that the best team won. If we won in Adelaide it would have just been papering over the obvious cracks. Maybe our endless line of young quicks aren't as good as we like to think. Take them off Shield 3 day greentops and put them on a 5 day test pitch and they mostly seem clueless. Pup is going to be spending a lot of time praising his team for trying really hard.

Posted by MinusZero on (December 4, 2012, 0:19 GMT)

I think South Africa showed something was coming in Adelaide. No one expected them to hold on for the draw. In Perth, they showed what they are made off. To beat Australia, at home, in 4 days, is amazing.

Posted by Micgyver on (December 3, 2012, 23:02 GMT)

When Australia went into this match without Hilfenhaus and Siddle in particular it was always going to be tough.Add Pattinson and Cummins injuries too.But you can only beat whats in front of you and SA certainly did that this test in a spirited series.

Posted by Mighty_Battler on (December 3, 2012, 22:45 GMT)

I keep hearing that SA "saved" the first test as Aus was closing in on victory. It is a distortion of the facts. Aus were the only team with a chance to win given the day lost to rain but in fact at the close of play SA had a 50 run lead and wickets in hand. They could easily have posted a total and bowled Aus out cheaply (given time) - something they have proven they can do pretty regularly!

Posted by Antomann on (December 3, 2012, 21:10 GMT)

@Hammond. Yeah, wait til you play England, it'll be playing South Africa again.

Posted by Marktc on (December 3, 2012, 19:02 GMT)

South Africa deserve their number one status. To beat Oz in Oz is a feat to behold. Clarke deserved man of the series. A hard fought series (should have been a five tester) but I do think SA deserved the win. People will always point fingers at Smith and his team but the wins speak for themselves.

Posted by landl47 on (December 3, 2012, 18:06 GMT)

Clarke himself played magnificently in the first two tests, though in my view he should not have got the Man of the Series award. Without du Plessis, SA would not have won the series. With Clarke, Aus lost the series. That makes du Plessis MOTS in my book. Aus has to deal with several problems, mainly batting: positions 3 and 4 contributed 44 and 32 runs respectively for the entire series. That's 76 runs in 10 innings. Aus can't win consistently unless that is fixed. Hilf didn't have a good series and in particular his failure to take even one wicket on day 5 of the second test hurt Aus. Hastings didn't look a test class bowler (Starc, on the other hand, after being mercilessly thrashed on day 2, came back to take a 6fer- now that's class). Johnson is still Johnson. Ponting's gone and Hussey is 37 years old- where are their replacements? Warner has now had 21 test innings. Over 50% of his runs have come in three of them. His average in the other 18 is 17. There's work to do, Clarkey.

Posted by mrmonty on (December 3, 2012, 17:58 GMT)

@samincolumbia, completely agree, mate. Performances like Clarke's in the 1st two tests could be expected from Ponting/Hayden/Gilchrist, since they had the X-factor. Clarke does not belong in that category. He aptly got found out, once there was a bit in the pitch.

Posted by YogifromNY on (December 3, 2012, 17:12 GMT)

Great watching these two teams battle it out over the past three tests. SA thoroughly deserve to be Test cricket's #1 side, unlike the pretenders before them who occupied that spot briefly - Eng and Ind. (Btw, I am an Indian team supporter, based in the US.) After watching the cricket in this third test, I have no appetite to watch the lukewarm, low-quality fare dished out by Eng and Ind. Sorry, BCCI, but till you put in place bowler-friendly wickets in India, you are not going to get any bowlers who are half-way decent and your side will always be mediocre. At least before, the Indian team were lions in their backyard - now they are lambs everywhere!

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (December 3, 2012, 16:37 GMT)

@Hammond: I thought you were an Aussie ! Hmm.. anyway, I think England will play well in the Ashes. Those days of Aussies dictating terms to England are over. England will always play good test cricket because they pay a lot more attention to it. Aussies try to dominate in all formats mostly and with some quality players retiring, they are finding it increasingly hard to do so. Having said that, Australia will continue to be among the top 3 unless India do something remarkable in the next 2 years and claw their way upwards, which to me is unlikely for now.

Posted by samincolumbia on (December 3, 2012, 16:17 GMT)

@Rally - The differentiator in this match was not Clarke, but the pitch. The moment a sporting pitch was on offer, flat track bullies got thoroughly exposed!!

Posted by Rally_Windies on (December 3, 2012, 15:32 GMT)

I said it before and I will say it again ...

Australia did not dominate the 1st two tests .. Michael Clarke Dominated the 1st two Tests ..

what would happen if Clarke does not score a double century in the 3rd Test ? Simply Aus would lose .....

if you stuck a Clarke 200+ in the 1st or Second Innings , this game probably also would have been a draw ...

Posted by Hammond on (December 3, 2012, 15:12 GMT)

Clarkey, wait til you play England. Your opinion will change. Even Smith said that England will easily reclaim the ashes next winter.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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