Smith leads South Africa to drought-breaking success
Graeme Smith's cool 75 set up South Africa's first series win in Australia as they eased to a nine-wicket victory that destroyed the hosts' world-beating reputation. Rain was the home side's only chance on the fifth day and while there was some in the morning, play began on time, Smith quickly attacked the wilting bowling attack, and the success was sealed after lunch when Hashim Amla flicked Michael Clarke for two behind square leg
While the visitors celebrated a superb 2-0 advantage following stunning comebacks in Perth and Melbourne, Ricky Ponting's players were glum after giving up their fortress. Australia's last series defeat at home was in 1992-93 and if they succumb again in Sydney from Saturday it will be Smith's team that is officially No. 1. While Ponting's men cling to the top rating, the best they can hope for in the unofficial rankings is third following their performances over the past three months.
Smith came to Australia with a calm confidence and his strength and drive have been immense. In the first Test his 108 put South Africa on track for an incredible chase of 414 and in Melbourne his half-century ensured there would be no costly slips.
Late cuts were Smith's main method and he picked up ten boundaries in his 94-ball contribution to a settling opening stand of 121. South Africa needed that type of innings. While Smith was lbw playing forward to Nathan Hauritz, Neil McKenzie survived some torrid moments to post a timely 59 and Amla chipped in with an unbeaten 30.
Ponting showed his inflexibility on the fifth morning by ignoring Mitchell Johnson, Australia's best bowler by the size of the MCG, in favour of the injured Brett Lee and the novice Peter Siddle. Lee is heading for foot surgery and in his third over the pain of his injury showed as he hobbled and winced.
Johnson was also fielding while Australia bowled six overs late on the fourth day and he was eventually called to replace Lee, who then came on for Siddle. Lee seemed in so much pain he must have wondered if he would ever be able to bowl again.
Only Ponting's use of Hauritz worked as the home side slumped towards demoralising back-to-back defeats. There was nothing Australia could do either side of lunch and Matthew Hayden's poor match continued when he spilt McKenzie on 49 when he edged to first slip.
The Australian injury epidemic - Andrew Symonds has a knee problem and Shane Watson will be out for up to six months with back stress fractures - will ensure a new-look team will walk out in Sydney. Australia are learning how the rest of the world lived over the past decade.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo