Ponting inspires Australia to a 2-0 series win
Australia 359 (Ponting 120, Gilchrist 86, Nel 4-81) and 2 for 288 (Ponting 143*, Hayden 90) beat South Africa 451 (Kallis 111, Prince 119) and 6 for 194 dec (Kallis 50, Gibbs 67) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
An extremely sporting declaration by Graeme Smith set up the third Test superbly, but Ricky Ponting ensured that what should have been a tight run-chase ended up as a no-contest as Australia swept to an eight-wicket win to seal the series 2-0. Requiring 287 from 76 overs, Australia romped home with more than 16 overs to spare. Not satisfied with his 120 in the first innings, Ponting smashed a glorious unbeaten 143, becoming the first batsman to score hundreds in each innings of his 100th Test. Matthew Hayden supported him perfectly as the two put together 182 for the second wicket and snuffed out any chance for South Africa to steal a series-levelling win.
Already 1-0 down, South Africa's only hope on the final day at Sydney was to get some quick runs, set a challenging target before Australia, and hope that they'd collapse in the quest for quick runs. South Africa's batsmen did well to score 100 off 20 overs in the morning, with Jacques Kallis relatively more aggressive, adding 36 in 49 balls to get to his half-century. Charl Langeveldt then gave South Africa early hope just before lunch, snaring Justin Langer with a beauty that swung into the batsman and clipped the stumps. From then on, though, it was a one-way traffic.
Throughout South Africa's second innings, the criticism against Kallis had been his inability to impose himself on the game. Ponting showed just how it could be done. Playing with a confidence that made him appear infallible, he snatched the initiative from South Africa immediately after lunch, rocking back and pulling Andre Nel when he erred in length only marginally.
That set the tone, as Ponting went from strength to strength, peppering all parts of the ground with delectable strokeplay. Nothing that South Africa tried worried him remotely as he made batting look ridiculously simple. To deliveries that were slightly fuller than good length, Ponting took a giant forward stride and deposited the ball, depending on its line, straight down the ground, through cover, or through midwicket. When the bowlers overcompensated and pitched it marginally shorter, Ponting was ready and waiting on the back foot, swiveling around to pull, or rocking back to cut. Throughout this series, the South Africans have fancied their chances of trapping Ponting on the shuffle, but here even that avenue was closed for them, as Ponting corrected his tendency to fall across while playing on the leg side.
Hayden began more circumspectly, but was soon into his elements, planting his front foot down the pitch to crash his trademark straight-drives. As his confidence grew, the pulls and cover-drives were added to the mix. Add excellent running between the wickets by both, and South Africa were completely clueless to stop the massacre.
To his credit, Smith continued to attack with his field placements, knowing that it was the only option for him. The seamers were given an adequate slip cordon, while a short mid-off and midwicket were employed in the hope that Ponting would scoop a drive. However, after the early swing that his bowlers got with the new ball, there was hardly any assistance on offer from the track - there was no seam movement, and the bounce was consistent - and the aggressive attitude of both batsmen ensured that none of the bowlers were allowed to settle in. South Africa were further hampered by the fact that their only spin option, Johan Botha, was totally out of his depth. His 12.3 overs cost him 77 - including the winning runs, a down-on-one-knee cover-drive by Ponting - and the only wicket he took, of Hayden, did nothing to the outcome of the game.
The final result was a convincing defeat for South Africa, but they did much better than the margin of defeat suggests. On the fifth morning, with quick runs urgently required, the batsmen did their job well. Kallis was more energetic than on the fourth day - even playing a couple of reverse-sweeps against the legspinners - but the real momentum came from the other batsmen, especially Shaun Pollock, who struck the ball superbly in his 21-ball 26. Smith then declared an hour before lunch, leaving his bowlers with 76 overs to try and take ten wickets. As it turned out, that was more than enough time for Australia to knock off the 287 runs and cruise to victory.
Ashwell Prince c Ponting b MacGill 18 (4 for 123)
Pulled a googly from outside off to midwicket
Jacques Rudolph c McGrath b MacGill 4 (5 for 129)
Lofted to long-on
Mark Boucher st Gilchrist b MacGill 11 (6 for 152)
Charged down and missed a legbreak
Justin Langer b Langeveldt 20 (1 for 30)
Beaten by a superb delivery that pitched on middle and straightened
Matthew Hayden c Smith b Botha 90 (2 for 212)
Charged down the pitch and edged to backward point
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo