South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Durban, 5th day March 10, 2009

Australia stay No. 1 after series win

Australia 352 (Hughes 115, Katich 108) and 331 for 5 dec (Hughes 160, Ponting 81) beat South Africa 138 (Duminy 73*, Johnson 3-37, McDonald 3-25) and 370 (Kallis 93, de Villiers 84, Siddle 3-61, Katich 3-45) by 175 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out

The transitional period is over. An emphatic series win in South Africa will imbue Australia with confidence that, after a harrowing six-month search, they have uncovered a crop of cricketers capable of competing with the world's best.

The Australians sealed a comprehensive 175-run victory at Kingsmead shortly before tea on the fifth day, prompting scenes of jubilation from a team barely recognisable to that which last tasted series success on South African shores. In claiming an unassailable 2-0 series lead, Ricky Ponting's band of rookies defended the No. 1 Test ranking earned by their venerable forebears and created a difficult situation for Andrew Hilditch's selection panel when the likes of Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and Andrew Symonds return in the coming months.

How South Africa long for such a problem. Just a fortnight ago, Graeme Smith's men commenced a series they firmly believed would deepen the scarring of a fledgling Australian line-up and result in a new world order in Test cricket. Instead, they slumped to their first defeat in 11 series, and first at home since Australia last toured in 2006. A long period of introspection beckons.

Three years ago, Australia relied upon Shane Warne to spin them victory in Durban. This time, it was the unlikely figure of Simon Katich, the occasional left-arm wrist spinner who, prior to Tuesday, had claimed just one Test scalp in four years. Katich took three of the final four wickets to fall on the fifth day to close out South Africa's second innings at 370 (the injured Smith did not bat) and make a dead rubber of next week's encounter in Cape Town.

Ponting has been accused of tactical rigidity since the retirements of Warne and Glenn McGrath, but is now unearthing new, improvised methods of achieving victory. The captain's manouverings have looked all the better for the herculean efforts of Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle, both of whom have made major improvements in the past year and look a combination capable of leading the Australian attack for years to come.

Top Curve
Smart Stats
  • This is South Africa's first series defeat since July 2006, when they lost 2-0 in Sri Lanka. Over the last two-and-a-half years, they've won nine series and drawn one. It was also their first defeat in a home series since Australia beat them 3-0 in 2006.
  • Jacques Kallis' 93 couldn't stave off defeat, but it continued his excellent form in Durban, where he averages 58.11, with four hundreds and as many fifties in 12 Tests. He also became the second player to score 1000 Test runs at this ground, after Gary Kirsten, who is only two runs in front.
  • The 187-run partnership between Kallis and AB de Villiers is South Africa's second-highest for the third wicket at Kingsmead.
  • Mitchell Johnson continued his domination of Kallis - he has dismissed him five times in eight innings, conceding 70 runs in 217 balls. That's an average of 14, and a scoring rate of 1.93 per over for South Africa's premier batsman against Australia's leading bowler.
  • de Villiers, on the other hand, averages 106 against Johnson - in 213 balls he has scored 106 runs and been dismissed just once.
  • In his last ten Tests, Neil McKenzie scored 426 runs at an average of 26.62, with two fifties.
Bottom Curve

Ponting has leaned heavily on Johnson in this series - the left-armer has bowled 101.3 overs in Johannesburg and Durban, 78 more deliveries than his opposite number, Dale Steyn - and will be aware of the need to reduce that workload in future. The selection of a specialist spinner, such as Bryce McGain, could got far to resolving that issue, and the Cape Town Test may be viewed as an opportunity to tinker.

The answers are less obvious for South Africa. Blessed with a gifted, youthful line-up, they will no doubt rebound from this disappointment and challenge the likes of Australia and India in the years to come. But their lack of edge and intensity since Melbourne will deeply concern Smith in the immediate term, given the high hopes held for the return series in South Africa and the establishment of a new cricketing dynasty.

Australia's quest for a third consecutive Test victory over the South Africans, dating back to the Sydney Test, began inauspiciously on Tuesday, with Michael Clarke turfing Jacques Kallis to a straightforward chance at point. The reprieve was Kallis' second from the bowling of Siddle - the first coming from the first ball he faced on Monday - and prompted dejected looks among the Australians. Johnson, though, ensured the mistake would not fester, removing the South African allrounder in the next over with a shorter, angling delivery that deflected off the outside edge and came to rest in the sure hands of Ponting at second slip.

Siddle was soon rewarded for his persistence with the wicket of the dangerous AB de Villiers, effectively terminating the South African resistance. This match could well have been Siddle's finest on the international stage, and his delivery to de Villiers - fast, angling in, seaming away and shaving the edge - was from the very top shelf. South Africa were 279 for 4 midway through the session, and fighting for survival.

The hosts benefited from another reprieve when the luckless Siddle watched forlornly as Brad Haddin spilled JP Duminy diving to his left. But, again, reinforcements were close at hand, and Ben Hilfenhaus promptly accounted for him with a short, sharp delivery that deflected from the gloves and flew to Haddin, no doubt grateful for his chance at redemption.

The initial in-roads made by the pacemen, it was left to Australia's makeshift spin attack to close out the innings. Katich removed Paul Harris on the stroke of lunch, and Marcus North dismissed the dogged Mark Boucher in the ensuring session to place Australia within sight of victory. Katich returned for the wickets of Morne Morkel and Steyn, and a famous Australian triumph was sealed.

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo