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Ian Chappell: Smith wins Sydney hearts

It was fitting that the final day was hard-fought as a competitive series between the two teams came to an end (03:55)

January 7, 2009


Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Sydney, 5th day

Ian Chappell: Smith wins Sydney hearts

January 7, 2009

An injured elbow and a broken left hand weren't enough to deter Graeme Smith from batting © AFP

What an amazing finish to what has been a fantastically competitive series between South Africa and Australia.

Graeme Smith walked out onto the SCG; he got a standing ovation from the crowd and it is an ovation that will be remembered for many years to come because of his bravery. He came out trying to save the game for his team after an incredible stand between Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini that extended the game well in to the last 15 overs. Smith thought it was worth the risk. In the end, he was clean bowled by Mitchell Johnson - the man who broke his finger - and Australia went on to win the game. But it was Smith who won the hearts of the Sydney crowd.

It was a pretty exciting day of cricket. South Africa had - what everybody thought - eight wickets to survive and hang on for a draw. Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla started the day pretty well. Eventually McKenzie fell for the wide delivery from Doug Bollinger and Michael Hussey took a good catch in the gully.

But Amla was looking very confident at the other end. He played his shots; he hit nine boundaries and he looked very confident. He is one of the most improved batsmen in world cricket at the moment. While Amla was at the crease, South Africa always had a chance of saving the game. Jacques Kallis was brilliantly caught and bowled by Andrew McDonald who dived onto the pitch to complete the catch. Soon after, Amla was out. Then a good partnership between JP Duminy and AB de Villiers developed but it took up 175 balls and by that stage South Africa could do nothing else but save the game. After that, Mark Boucher went to a shocking dismissal from Asoka de Silva - adjudged lbw to a full toss. Paul Harris went lbw to Peter Siddle and at that stage it looked like it was all going to get over very early.

But then, as I said, Steyn and Ntini survived a lot of near-misses and they hung on. Eventually Steyn - who was dropped caught and bowled by McDonald - fell lbw to McDonald. Then, out came Smith to face the music with his broken hand and injured elbow. He wasn't able to survive; he went down in the second last over of the game - this is the second in a row at the SCG that has finished on day five with just a couple of overs remaining. Ntini remained 28 not out in a brave hand to try and save the game.

Siddle with three wickets and Johnson with two were the heroes for Australia.

It was a terrific series. South Africa won it 2-1; Australia have regained a bit of pride in winning the third match. It will give them a bit of confidence going into the tour of South Africa but they have to get their selection right before that. I'm not convinced that McDonald and the offspinner Nathan Hauritz are players of the future for Australia. But most certainly, Siddle, Bollinger and Johnson could provide the backbone of a pretty decent attack for Australia.

So the series in South Africa will be a tough one. South Africa have shown how hard they are to beat. But the key will be whether Smith can be fit for that series. He has been a formidable and an inspirational leader for South Africa. If he can play, it will make a hell of a lot of difference to South Africa. The performance he put on today at the SCG, would have lifted him in the eyes of his players. It will give him even more respect than he already has.

A tremendous series between Australia and South Africa. Australia won the final game and they just hang on to their No. 1 spot on the computer. How much longer they can hang on to that spot? I'm not sure.

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