South Africa v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Centurion, 3rd day February 24, 2013

South Africa complete series sweep


South Africa 409 (De Villiers 121, Amla 92, Philander 74, Rahat 6-127) beat Pakistan 156 (Abbott 7-29) and 235 (Steyn 4-80) by an innings and 18 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

For the two decades since their return from sporting isolation, South Africa have been among the top teams in the world, without ever having a sustained run as the undisputed No. 1. Even in the recent successes, an element of ruthlessness was missing, highlighted by the lack of consecutive Test victories over a four-year span ending with the hard-fought series victory over Australia.

Graeme Smith's men have been unrelenting in correcting that anomaly over the home summer. Not only have they won all five Tests, they have utterly dominated almost all of them, as the margins suggest: innings and 27 runs, innings and 193 runs, 211 runs, four wickets and today at Centurion, innings and 18 runs. None of those matches went to the fifth day, the opposition was outclassed in the batting, bowling and fielding, and the near-perfect summer silenced any debate over which was the best side in the world - South Africa now enjoy a 10-point lead over second-placed England. It also quelled murmurs over South Africa's less than impressive record at home in recent years.

It has been all one-way traffic over the past couple of months, and it looked like that would be the case on Sunday as well. There were plenty of cracks in the Centurion pitch making the odd ball swerve dramatically, and there was a bit of unpredictable bounce as well. And Dale Steyn removed Pakistan's man for a crisis, Younis Khan, early with another of his typical have-to-poke-at outswingers.

Azhar Ali and Imran Farhat, however, kept the South African pace battery at bay for a couple of hours. Ali, who had only one substantial score in five previous innings, capitalised on the deliveries on his pads, and was happy to otherwise push around for the singles. He looked to leave as many deliveries as he could, and defended solidly as he patiently made his way to an unbeaten 27 by lunch.

Farhat, who couldn't open the innings after having been struck on the hand yesterday, continued to show the confidence he had at the start of the first innings, crashing the ball past point repeatedly. He was not shy of the pull shot either when South Africa's quicks pitched it short.

Still, despite their defiance, as has been the case all summer, a Pakistan batting collapse never seemed far away. What will hurt them is that this time the slide began due to a run-out. Soon after lunch, there was confusion whether to go for the second or not, and by the time Ali was sent back, a bullet throw from Steyn at fine leg had arrived, and the dogged partnership was over.

That opened the gates for a slew of wickets. Debutant Kyle Abbott got yet another wicket behind the stumps as Farhat edged through to the keeper, before Rory Kleinveldt finally had reward for his persistence. Misbah-ul-Haq nicked one through to AB de Villiers, and soon after Asad Shafiq gave away his wicket by punching a catch to Vernon Philander at mid-off.

With an hour still left till tea, and Pakistan's tail notoriously fragile, there was a genuine chance that the match would finish before the session was scheduled to. Sarfraz Ahmed, who has been hopeless with the bat all the series, and Saeed Ajmal, who put up some resistance in Newlands as well, made sure the collapse didn't extend beyond four wickets, playing out the 13 overs till the break.

Steyn returned to whip out two wickets, to go past the great Allan Donald's Test haul of 330 wickets, and was one away from yet another five-for. Abbott got his ninth wicket of the match when he got the other debutant Ehsan Adil to steer a catch to third man.

That left Steyn and Abbott chasing the final wicket for personal milestones, and though Pakistan's last pair, Rahat Ali and Mohammad Irfan, attempted many an agricultural swipe, the final strike just didn't arrive. The frustration increased for South Africa as despite a bunch of chances, Rahat and Irfan batted out eight overs. Smith finally tossed the ball to his spinner, Robin Peterson, who finished off the game in his first over, getting Rahat lbw.

It completed a miserable series for Pakistan, whose batting has consistently let them down on the testing surfaces in South Africa. In this match, no batsman made a half-century, and in the series no batsman aggregated 200 runs.

For the home side, it was only the third time since their return that they have won three or more Tests in the series. And there was another record for Smith to savour as he became the first captain to win 50 Tests.

Not only have the results been magnificent for South Africa, they have been achieved through a eye-catching brand of cricket that combines aggression, grace and efficiency. South Africa fans, lap it up.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • harish on February 25, 2013, 5:19 GMT

    Looking forward to how INDIA faces these monsters ! I am just excited thinking about it, right now, if India gets successful at Australia, then, it would be a contest which SA would feel as if they are in a TEST, they would be tested seriously ! 5 day toil would be inevitable !

  • Colin on February 25, 2013, 0:10 GMT

    Well done SA from an England fan. Certain other countries crow about their pace battery but SA are the real deal. Ominous!

  • Blessing on February 24, 2013, 23:53 GMT

    Smith now holds the world record of most test victories by a captain. Congrats captain Biff, wish you and your lads many more victories in the years to come

  • Zorina on February 24, 2013, 23:48 GMT

    Congratulations SA, a TEAM of talented, hardworking cricketers... please note.... hardworking, no starboys. It is clear each SA player knows what his role in the team is and works towards team success. Every contribution goes towards winning a game, or as we saw in Australia, not losing the game. SA is not burdened by political problems in the public domain and as we read among these comments, their fans are careful not to damage the team even if they criticise a player here and there. Other countries will do well to learn from the way these players conduct themselves. Can anyone see KP for all his talent fitting into this tea? And they have learned enough from their recent history to wear their social conscience on their sleeves, which is why Smith was able to speak on behalf of Sri Lankan players last year.

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2013, 23:30 GMT

    ALL PAKISTANI FANS, stop making excuses and pointing at other teams that are playing bad. Besides, why are you pointing at India when you should be talking about your team's humiliating performance. I would go into hiding if I was a pakistan fan. They're only good against mediocre team, and winning in India was just a fluke, and I just have one thing to say, "Pakistan still have NOT beaten India in World Cup"

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2013, 23:22 GMT

    I think Pakistan lOst diS Test match,cauz they were playing wth the twO new bOwlers,whO were just pitching the ball tOo Up,unexperienced fast bOwling attack cOst us this lost.....

    If there had been Junaid,Gul,Irfan and Ajmal,we wOuld have restricted them belOw 300..... The pitch was very unusual,bEcause Of which Our baTsman lAcked tO scOre runs.....

    Nevertheless sOuth Africa played better than Us !

  • Fahad on February 24, 2013, 22:55 GMT

    Please pakistani brothers dont say let them come to uae if we lose there what wil we say then. Look what happend to india againt engeland in the test series. So let remain calm and support our team in any situation win and loses are part the game. No same by losing to no1 test team in there backyard. Cricinfo please publish

  • I on February 24, 2013, 22:51 GMT

    Barring the first day of the series, and Younis and Asad's partnership at Newlands, there's very little to take from this series for the Pakistan test team. And I think the chatter about the preparation of the wickets is misguided; they were all sporting wickets with something for both bowlers and batsmen, which means that South Africa played far superior cricket.

  • I on February 24, 2013, 22:44 GMT

    @ ARFB This is spot-on, We shouldn't have been wasting time on bi-lateral ties with india or another frivolous T20 league, and instead continuing the 2010-2011 formula, and preparing for test matches. Last year, newcomers to the international arena like Junaid and Aizaz got plenty of time to prepare with tests against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, before going on to play England. This time, the whole strategy was reversed - no first-class cricket, only limited-overs games, 6 months with no tests, pointless tour of India. Did they really think this was the way to prepare to take on a side as strong as South Africa? Rahat, Ehsan, Irfan - where is the wisdom in debuting new fast bowlers against the best batting lineup in the world, in their backyard? Hopelessly bad management, bad for their confidence and bad for the team. Even worse, Nasir got dropped without a proper run in the side, way to show some faith in a newcomer on what can be the toughest of tours.

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2013, 22:42 GMT

    This Team remind me of the West Indies in late 80's early 90's. They can beat you in so many ways. Graeme Smith is in the top 5 captain all time.