Australia wrap up crushing win
Soon after lunch on the final day Australia wrapped up a crushing 184-run win in the Boxing Day Test against South Africa at Melbourne. South Africa, all out for 181, were still far, far away from saving the game, either in terms or runs or wickets. Australia had enjoyed some luck on the day, but they had also stuck to their task admirably and thoroughly deserved to be leading the series 1-0 when the final Test comes around at Sydney in the new year.
Ricky Ponting, the winning captain, singled out the 107-run 10th wicket partnership between Michael Hussey and Glenn McGrath as the key event in the game. "The 10th wicket partnership between Mike Hussey and Glenn McGrath has probably proved to be the difference in the end," Ponting said at the post-match interview. "Putting on over a 100 runs for the last wicket was a great contribution."
Hussey, in the course of that knock, was dropped on 27 and went on to make 122. Earlier Ponting had been dropped on 17 and went on to score 117. Dropped chances certainly hurt South Africa. "We've taken pretty much every chance that has come our way," said Ponting. "The bowlers have had to work hard, but they've been well supported by the fielders."
Hussey, adjudged the Man of the Match, was typically low-key in his response. "There have been a lot of superb performances so I'm pleasantly surprised," he said. "Ponting made a good 100 on a touch pitch, Hayden got a big one, Symonds was among the wickets and scored some runs."
When the final day began, though, there was little doubt about how the game would go. Ashwell Prince will consider himself quite unlucky to have been adjudged caught at slip by Matthew Hayden off Shane Warne for a painstaking 120-ball 26, but Warne will no doubt point to the fact that he has now dismissed Prince four times in as many innings in this series. Television replays suggested that the ball may have gone off arm rather than bat. Prince and Pollock had defied the Australians for a time, adding 48 for the seventh wicket.
Shaun Pollock, who seems to have given up on his batting in recent times, provided the stoutest resistance. He was not afraid to play his shots when the ball was in his zones, but for the best part he adopted a conservative approach, playing with a straight bat. He went from his overnight 13 to 67 not out even as wickets fell around him and the match slipped away.
Nicky Boje, also no mug with the bat, played out 38 balls before Glenn McGrath, re-introduced into the attack as lunch approached, got rid of him. A ball kept slightly low and beat Boje's defensive shot, going back onto the stumps off the edge. Andre Nel did not last long, loosely dabbing at McGrath outside the off, only to find the keeper.
Makhaya Ntini, in some discomfort thanks to a tendon problem in the knee, came out to bat with four balls to see off for lunch, and managed to do so. He had come out with a runner, but there wasn't much need for that, as sharp singles weren't really at a premium. Survival to lunch was the key, and that was achieved with the score on 9 for 180. Just one run was added after lunch, though, before Ntini played back to Stuart MacGill and chopped the ball onto his stumps, sending the crowd, and the Australian team into wild celebrations.
South Africa second innings
AB de Villiers st Gilchrist b Warne 8 (1 for 39)
Was drawn out and beaten all ends up
Graeme Smith c Gilchrist b McGrath 25 (2 for 45)
Chased an away swinger
Herschelle Gibbs b Warne 9 (3 for 58)
Played back and bowled by a quick skidder
Jacques Kallis c Gilchrist b Symonds 9 (4 for 64)
Poked at a late outswinger
Jacques Rudolph b Symonds 4 (5 for 72)
Inside edged a ball that seamed in a touch
Mark Boucher c Ponting b Warne 5 (6 for 82)
Well caught off bat and pad at silly mid-off
Ashwell Prince c Hayden b Warne 26 (7 for 130)
Unlucky to be adjudged caught after ball went to slip off arm
Nicky Boje b McGrath 13 (8 for 166)
Edged back onto stumps
Andre Nel c Gilchrist b McGrath 2 (9 for 178)
Poked at one outside off
Makhaya Ntini b MacGill 2 (10 for 181)
Chopped back onto his stumps
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo