Australia v South Africa, 4th ODI, Adelaide January 26, 2009

Ponting rues 'worst performance of the summer'

Cricinfo staff

Johan Botha was praised by his coach Mickey Arthur for bringing South Africa back into the game © Getty Images

Ricky Ponting has described Australia's eight-wicket defeat in Adelaide as their worst effort of the season after the loss handed South Africa an unassailable 3-1 lead in the one-day series. Ponting went into the match hoping that his team would lift given the match was on Australia's national holiday but the hosts were completely dominated by South Africa.

"That's our worst performance of the summer by a long way," Ponting said after the match. "We pride ourselves in the way we play big games. Today was a big game and we fell a long way short on this occasion. I was really disappointed with the way we went about our cricket today. There wasn't that spark that we needed in the field."

The problems began with the batting and Ponting, who made 63, was the only one of the top order who looked consistently threatening. Five others reached double figures but the fact that nobody went on to post a big score was a frustration for Ponting, whose men were dismissed for 222 after 48 overs.

"Once again in our batting we got ourselves into a reasonable position [2 for 110] and then a few overs later we were 5 for 130, and that's really been the tale right through this series. The guys at the top of the order have got to take that responsibility, and every game I've played I've got 60, 60, 40 and 30 and not gone on to make a big score, so I can put my hand up and say that I need to do better."

Australia never looked like defending their small total on a good batting pitch and the fact that South Africa got home in the 39th over was a major embarrassment. The South Africa captain Johan Botha entered the series trying to find his feet as a leader and he said it was enormously satisfying to take the trophy.

"Before the game today we asked for a really special performance and the guys have delivered brilliantly," Botha said. "We said this will make it real sweet on Australia Day."

Botha bowled superbly for the second match in a row and his 2 for 28 from ten overs was one of the key causes of Australia's middle-order woes. Botha picked up Michael Hussey for 28 and then enticed Brad Haddin into an ill-conceived slog before he was settled, and the South Africa coach Mickey Arthur was full of praise for the captain.

"We were lucky because we got a little bit ragged but from over 16 I thought we were really, really good," Arthur said. "I thought Johan Botha brought us back into the game. He stopped the game for us, built some pressure and then the wickets tumbled."

The teams now head to Perth for the final match in the series on Friday. Although it is a dead rubber, Australia will be desperate to regain form ahead of their ODI series against New Zealand and their tour of South Africa, which starts in late February.