South Africa in Australia flashback: 2008-09 November 6, 2012

'You beauty, you superstar'

JP Duminy emerged from nowhere to star in South Africa's first series win in Australia

After being completely outplayed in Australia in 2001-02, South Africa managed to just avoid a second whitewash when they returned in 2005-06.

A draw in the first Test, in Perth, was somewhat cathartic for Jacques Rudolph. He scored an unbeaten century after being left out of the XI in all three matches of the previous visit because of a change in selection policy. But South Africa lost the next two Tests and returned home empty-handed again.

By the time they made the trip four seasons later, South Africa were a team transformed. They had beaten England for the first time since readmission and went to Australia with a fresh mindset. There was not the excitement of 1993, or the false bravado of 2001, but a quiet confidence in their plans.

The tour didn't begin well, though, when a day before the first Test, Ashwell Prince, who had made two centuries in England and was a core part of South Africa's middle order, injured his thumb in the nets. Losing him was a big blow, especially because his replacement, JP Duminy, was a rookie.

"I was in the field catching for Paul Harris and I didn't really bat much that day, because the playing XI got preference, when Mickey [Arthur] rushed over and said Ashwell had got hit," Duminy said. "Mickey said I've got to get into the nets and prepare."

Duminy had a "sleepless night", but when his phone buzzed early the next morning he knew what was coming. "Ashwell SMS-ed me at 6 o'clock to say he didn't think he was going to be able to play, and he wished all the best to me, which was quite nice from his side."

Australia took a first-innings lead of 94, and Mitchell Johnson, who took 8 for 61, was looking dangerous. One of Johnson's wickets was that of Duminy, although the South African batsman maintains he wasn't out. "I got a bouncer from Johnson, was hit on the arm and got given out. So I was a little disappointed."

The short ball would go on to become Duminy's nemesis further in his Test career, but only after his heroics in Perth and Melbourne.

Australia scored 319 in their second innings, and even though none of their batsmen made hundreds in the match, they set South Africa 414 to win. It required a near-world-record chase*, and few thought South Africa could do it, given their reputation as chokers.

Opener Neil McKenzie fell to Johnson for 10, but Graeme Smith added to his enormous pile of second-innings runs in successful chases with a stoic century, and Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis contributed fifties. On a fifth-day pitch that was as good as a third-day one, South Africa inched closer.

With Kallis and AB de Villiers at the crease, they had the right mix of experience and aggression, but when Kallis was dismissed with South Africa still needing 111, the responsibility fell on young Duminy.

"I was walking out and Kallis said to me as we passed each other, 'Go make history.' It's something that I've always remembered, because that's what it was. It was history in the making and it was a special effort from our side."

"I was walking out and Kallis said to me as we passed each other, 'Go make history.' It's something that I've always remembered"

Displaying remarkable clarity of mind and control, Duminy crafted a fine fifty and hit the winning runs. At no stage did he think South Africa would not get there. "We had six wickets in hand, the pitch was playing very well and AB was going well too. I thought we had the upper hand. I suppose, on the plus side, we didn't lose any more wickets."

The victory represented more than just an odds-defying achievement. A series lead had been taken over the old enemy. "Going up 1-0 against Australia gave us the belief that we can chase down anything and that we can beat the Aussies in Australia," de Villiers said. "That was a massive mental thing for us to get over."

Come Boxing Day, however, tension had mounted to the point of exploding. Ricky Ponting's century was offset by the South African pace trio's wickets, and Australia went to stumps at 280 for 6. On day two, Michael Clarke and the tail added another 114 runs, after which the Australian bowlers stuck into South Africa.

With his side on 132 for 5, Duminy was presented with a different kind of pressure from that in Perth. His team's hope that he could be like Prince and drag them out of trouble, his own uncertainty about his position and his game plan all weighed him down.

"Leading up to that second game, I still wasn't sure if I would play, because Ashwell was getting a lot of rehabilitation. There was still a chance of him playing, so I wasn't sure where I stood until fairly late again. I just took the opportunity that arose. The team was in a bit of trouble when I went in to bat and I just took it ball by ball. Initially it was a little bit difficult, but it was just about absorbing that pressure."

Duminy lost partners steadily, though, and when Dale Steyn walked in at No. 10, South Africa were still 143 runs behind. "The partnership with Dale stands out because of the way he went about his business, Duminy said. "He was getting hit quite a few times on the body and [there were] one or two dropped catches." Johnson struck Steyn on the left hand, Ponting dropped him at second slip, Michael Hussey at mid-on, and Nathan Hauritz off his own bowling. Steyn went on to score a career-best 76.

Duminy accelerated at all the right moments - when the Australian seamers were tired and when Steyn was able to hold his own. When he got to his hundred, Duminy leaped up and punched the air. Mark Nicholas, on commentary, exclaimed, "You beauty, you superstar".

Duminy was finally dismissed for 166 and South Africa on 459. The lead of 65 was worth far more because of the psychological blows they had dealt Australia.

Ponting led the reply with 99, but when South Africa were set only 183 to win, Australia's series defeat was inevitable. Duminy did not have to bat again but there was no doubt that he was the architect of South Africa's series win. "We had a team huddle and a meeting on the field, and a few guys spoke. There were definitely emotions around and we made memories I will always hold close," Duminy said.

South Africa were the first team to beat Australia at home in 16 years. That it came down to a player who would not even have featured in the series seemed to make it more special. De Villiers pointed out that the bowlers' contributions were vital as well. "JP's innings in Melbourne was special, but also the way our bowlers came to the party." Steyn took ten wickets and his all-round performance earned him the Man-of-the-Match award.

Australia pulled back a victory in Sydney but the Test is better remembered for Graeme Smith batting with a broken hand. He was given a thunderous standing ovation - an affirmation that he is one of the great captains of the game.

The bulk of that 2008-09 South African squad are now back in Australia for more, and they hope to achieve the double - winning in England and Australia in the same year - again.

This time, Steyn said, they are better prepared than before. "The last time, I wasn't as prepared for how difficult the cricket was going to be or for the crowd's abuse. This time I know what to expect." But there is also the burden of expectations, which Duminy hopes they can shake off quickly. "Whatever happened four years ago is in the past. It's about making new memories this time. The only difference is that we've come here now expecting to win, because we are the No. 1 Test team."

08:41:13 GMT, 6 November 2012: Corrected from "world-record chase"

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Daniel on November 7, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    @Meety - the writer of this article.. which is one article about a historic event. I think you'll find the complaint was about numerous articles, which are certainly not written by the protea's.. unless you are implying that they have secret identities as journalists. I could just as easly say that i have lost respect for the aussies because they are writing articles about how the odds are stacked against them.. nonsensical.. right? Right.

  • Andrew on November 7, 2012, 1:04 GMT

    @DannoTheManno - the author of this article is a member of the Saffa media! LOL! @Saffie1987 on (November 07 2012, 00:16 AM GMT) - Smith is the most experienced Test captain of all time, but he is a long way short of been in the same company as other great captains (yet)! He is not Imran Khan, Tubby Taylor or Clive Lloyd's boot laces - yet! Within aspects of captaincy - like leadership, he has been immense (like Strauss), tactically he falls behind as honestly - post 2007, with the team the Saffas have had (& still have) - they should be ruling roughshod over everything cricket. @Marcio on (November 07 2012, 00:27 AM GMT) - good comment, agree with the last sentence & would like the second last sentence to be a glimpse into the very immediate future!

  • Marcio on November 7, 2012, 0:27 GMT

    @jonesy2, Firdose and some SA writers have certainly shown a tendency to get 'over-excited' in recent times, and the way players are portrayed does seem to be more like gods ("superstar"?) than sportsmen. And it can be annoying, as I've posted elsewhere. But perhaps we should just forgive them. After all, this is their moment in the sun - at least until day 1 at the Gabba. And you yourself do get a little worked up about the AUS team at times, no?

  • Kieron on November 7, 2012, 0:16 GMT

    @ Jonesy2 : Who cares if you have lost respect for the Protea's! I mean everyone can see Graeme Smith is one of the best captains of all time! You must be one of those Aussies who think Australia is the best at everything, and who doesn't want to give credit to South-Africa! Well bhoeeehoeeeee, be prepared for a lot of pain during the upcoming series my friend!

  • Blessing on November 6, 2012, 23:53 GMT

    "You beauty, you superstar" -Ill never forget those words. From a once huge admire of the once flawless Australian cricket team, I have to admit, a test series victory against the Ausis down under is probably bigger than any victory in international cricket for a Proteas supporter. Wish JP an even better tour this time around, one in which he can cement his place in the side once and for all.

  • Jon on November 6, 2012, 23:47 GMT

    @clarke501- good point. I often think people overuse words like "choking" or "bottling". At the end of the day it is only choking if the superior side fails to perform up to their own standards. If an opposition has a blinder then it is fair to say you have been outplayed. I often feel in my country England, our football side is accused of choking, whereas in reality we are just not good enough.

  • Cricinfouser on November 6, 2012, 18:00 GMT

    'It required a near-world-record chase, and few thought South Africa could do it, given their reputation as chokers.' No points for originality here as this has to be one of the dullest clichés in cricket. More importantly, it makes absolutely no sense in this particular context. How can a team be said to have 'choked' if they fail to pull off a 'near record chase' - something which, by definition, they were never expected to achieve in the first place?

  • Kiran on November 6, 2012, 16:24 GMT

    I can never, ever forget that Melbourne Test. South Africa were down in the dumps when Duminy and Steyn took the Australian bowlers by their necks and turned the match on its head. While Duminy batted like Brian Lara, Steyn went about hitting runs all round the wicket. The one comical incident from that innings was the manner in which Mike Hussey, usually never one to drop a catch, struggling in the Melbourne sun and moving his hands this way and that in a very confused way, could not figure out which way the ball was going and ended up dropping Steyn which ultimately resulted in "dropping" the Test match. And of course after Australia were all out for 238 and South Africa needed 183 to win, Graeme Smith wasted no time in reducing the target by 30 runs on the fourth day evening. On the final day Graeme Smith played some daring shots through the slips and went on to score 75, virtually settling the match for South Africa who went on to win the match comprehensively.

  • Dummy4 on November 6, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    This was one of the greatest test series i've ever seen,comparable to ashes 2005.

  • Daniel on November 6, 2012, 13:00 GMT

    @jonesy2 - The south African team and media aren't writing the articles... Brett Lee was getting smashed before he got injured. There are plenty of articles about the Australian injury list, so don't worry you are getting your face time too.

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