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April 14, 2009
Ricky Ponting's men have been unable to win back the No. 1 one-day international ranking but he believes they can still finish the tour on a high. South Africa claimed the series with a 61-run win in Port Elizabeth on Monday and in doing so confirmed their position at the top of the rankings table.
But Australia can make the scoreline a little less lopsided and will fly out with a 3-2 loss if they fight back to win the final ODI in Johannesburg on Friday. It will require a turnaround in form after South Africa's strong performances but Australia are keen to regain some momentum before heading to the UAE to take on Pakistan.
"We weren't able to do well this time, and the South Africans outplayed us in the last three games in all facets of the game, so they deserve to be where they are," Ponting said after the Port Elizabeth loss. "We'd like to finish the tour on a high, so hopefully there'll be a bit of character in the team when the guys pitch up on Friday."
Ponting took a risk by sending South Africa in on Monday but the bowlers struggled to make inroads into the top order. Herschelle Gibbs' 21st ODI century and an attacking 84 from AB de Villiers left Australia chasing 318 and despite a promising opening stand between Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke Australia fell well short.
"Herschelle obviously played beautifully, he played a sensational innings," Ponting said. "I thought de Villiers was also outstanding. We needed someone at the top to go on and make a big hundred, but we didn't really have that."
Gibbs finished with 110 and it was his first century since coming back into the side during the one-day series in Australia, following his month-long stay in alcohol rehabilitation. He showed encouraging signs with a 64 at the SCG and in Port Elizabeth finally made use of one of his many starts.
"I feel I have been boiling for some time, probably since the third ODI at Sydney," Gibbs said. "I have probably wanted it too badly which is why it did not come sooner. I knew if I got through the first 15 to 20 overs that I could go all the way. It was an excellent pitch."
South Africa's captain Graeme Smith said Gibbs had played a sensational innings and it was pleasing to see him cash in on his starts. The teams now head to the Wanderers, the venue of the famous 438 match of three years ago, for the series finale.
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