At Johannesburg, March 31, April 1, 2, 3, 4, 2006. Australia won by two wickets. Toss: South Africa.
Australia's reputation for losing dead matches was dented when they fought as though their lives depended on the result and pulled off a thrilling victory. It earned them their first whitewash in South Africa - and inflicted on South Africa their first in a home series of three or more Tests since 1895-96, when they lost 3-0 to England. Set 292 (comfortably the highest to win a Test at the Wanderers), Australia were carried to the brink of victory by Martyn, with a diligent, high-class century, and over the line by tailenders Lee and Kasprowicz - something they had famously just failed to do eight months earlier at Edgbaston.
It was quite a game for Lee, who announced his engagement at the end of the Second Test and celebrated with the match award here. He seized three wickets in the South African first innings - including Kallis, captain in place of Smith, absent nursing an injured finger, and Prince, caught at second slip within sight of a hundred - before hitting 64, his highest Test score.
Thanks to Prince and a late forty from Boje, South Africa reached 300 for the only time in the series, despite another pitch helping the seamers. Most of the successful batsmen used a chisel rather than a sledgehammer. Not that Langer, playing his 100th Test, had much opportunity to use anything. He ducked into the first ball of the Australian reply, a laser-guided bouncer from Ntini that cut back sharply and thudded into the side of his head. He played no further part in the match, was still displaying signs of concussion three days later, and not until June was he cleared to return to the game. Ntini quickly caused more damage by ripping out four wickets - and when Nel accounted for Gilchrist, Australia were 106 for five, effectively six.
But Hussey and Warne adopted a clever good guy-bad guy routine in which Warne tried to hit everything out of the ground and Hussey tried to prevent him by cunningly keeping him off strike. Together they added 68 before Lee again revealed genuine all-rounder credentials. His leaving of the ball was outstanding and, though uncomfortable against Ntini's short ball, he played it bravely. His attacking shot selection was near perfect.
The one sour moment of his innings came early on the third day when Dippenaar held what seemed a routine slip catch, but Lee, on 45, refused to walk. Umpire Bucknor consulted New Zealander Tony Hill at square leg, who enigmatically said he had not seen the catch but had heard two noises. Whatever the thinking, Lee was given the benefit of the doubt. Replays showed a clean catch.
In the end, South Africa had to settle for a lead of just 33. Given their earlier position of strength, they might have been downcast, but they batted with great resolve. Especially eye-catching was Pollock's innings of 44. After being overlooked for the new ball in the first innings for the first time since February 1998, he was promoted to No. 6, a clear indication that his Test future lay as a batting all-rounder. He responded with some majestic hitting, scoring at almost a run a ball and proving he still had the desire to compete. South Africa had talked of setting Australia 250. They were eventually required to make 292 on a deteriorating pitch, making South Africa favourites.
But Martyn produced a display of skill and tenacity that many judged beyond his personality and temperament, if not his technique, justifying his controversial selection for the tour ahead of Brad Hodge. No wonder he described his hundred, full of flicks and steers behind square on both sides of the wicket, as his best innings in Tests. Not that Hussey's crafty, wristy 89 was any less important, though he was fortunate to survive two early lbw shouts. "I may have had a bit of luck," he admitted. The South Africans felt it had rather more to do with Bucknor's loss of confidence.
Even so, the Test hung in the balance when Pollock nipped one back to dismiss Martyn: 34 required with two wickets left - three if Langer could be risked. Lee again batted with authority, and Clark added vital runs before becoming the excellent Ntini's tenth wicket. Seventeen needed. As Lee and Kasprowicz reduced the target to single figures, a groggy Langer started to pad up. And then a cover-driven four from Lee ensured Langer could stay in the pavilion - and Australia could celebrate their whitewash.
Man of the Match: B. Lee.
Man of the Series: S. R. Clark.