Lee and Kasprowicz steal two-wicket thriller
Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz buried their Ashes nightmares with a 19-run eighth-wicket partnership to secure a gripping victory and earn a 3-0 cleansweep against South Africa. Set 292, Australia rode home with two wickets remaining and Justin Langer gloved up in preparation if either batsmen fell, but he was able to avoid damaging his recovery from a head knock and was needed only for delicate back-slapping.
Kasprowicz walked out to meet Lee with 17 to go in a scene of Edgbaston revisted. He picked up a two and a legbye before Lee cut the aim to eight when he strode forward to thunder Shaun Pollock through cover. Kasprowicz followed his team-mate with a square boundary and thoughts would not stop flicking to his dramatic caught-behind dismissal to Steve Harmison with only three runs to win in Birmingham last year.
Two quick singles and a loud "no" for an overthrow reduced the target to two and Lee unleashed a brutal lofted cut shot that sealed a stunning come-from-behind victory. In the second Test against England the pair wanted 62 and fell heartbreakingly short, but this time there were beaming smiles as Lee finished with a mature 24 and Kasprowicz scurried a memorable 7.
"It was a fantastic morning," Lee, the Man of the Match, said. "We fought really hard and at the end there we really, really wanted it. With a few runs to go we looked up and there was a guy with the pads on, but we had to make sure Justin didn't get out there."
"We've had a few Tests like that of late - obviously a very famous one last year - and it was great to see those same guys get us through," Ponting said. He also said Damien Martyn's "brilliant" 101 on a difficult pitch should not be overlooked.
While Lee and Kasprowicz overcame the 2005 flashbacks, Martyn was also able to move on from his England disappointment when he brought up his century with a four behind point. He resumed on 93 with Australia wanting 44 for the win and was a relieved man as he raised his bat and helmet. After the Ashes Martyn felt his Test career was over, but a second chance came and he waited six innings to make it pay with his 13th Test century.
Lee and Stuart Clark, the Man of the Series, scampered singles and legbyes until Clark struck a beautiful boundary off the back foot through cover. The target was 21 and Australia's newest member looked unflappable as he clubbed another boundary in front of point off Makhaya Ntini. A third was impossible and his misguided pull shot ballooned into the hands of Mark Boucher to give Ntini his tenth wicket of the match.
It was an unfair result to Ntini, who picked up 4 for 78 to follow his 6 for 100, but South Africa struggled without Andre Nel yesterday due to illness. "We had to strike early, which we did," Jacques Kallis, the stand-in captain, said, "but unfortunately Australia took it to us and played aggressively." The home side suffered an unprecedented 3-0 whitewash to go with the 2-0 series loss in Australia to continue a miserable summer against the world champions.
Matthew Hayden c de Villiers b Ntini 0 (0 for 1)
Defensive push to ball angling away and diving catch in the cordon
Ricky Ponting c Boucher b Kallis 20 (33 for 2)
Inside edge to gentle drive
Michael Hussey lbw Boje 89 (198 for 3)
Playing back and spinning sharply
Andrew Symonds c Boucher b Kallis 29 (228 for 4)
Moved away off the pitch and clever catch
Adam Gilchrist c Boucher b Ntini 0 (229 for 5)
Around the wicket, angled in, moved away and took the edge
Shane Warne c Boucher b Ntini 3 (237 for 6)
Fine edge flirting at rising ball
Damien Martyn lbw Pollock 101 (258 for 7)
Great off-cutter from Pollock heading for top of middle
Stuart Clark c Boucher b Ntini 10 (275 for 8)
Top-edged pull that skyed to the cordon
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo