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Toss: South Africa. Test debut: M. L. Hayden.
South Africa's win by 197 runs signalled their return to the upper bracket of Test-playing countries. In Australia, they had hung on for a drawn series, following a wonderful but slightly freakish win in Sydney with a defeat in Adelaide. At the magnificently refurbished Wanderers ground, they achieved the best of their four Test wins since their return, not only outplaying Australia, but outfighting them.
Resilience, courage and the refusal to lie down are well-known Australian traits, but the home side were superior in all aspects of the game, including discipline. It was a pity that such an enthralling contest should have been sullied by Warne and Hughes, both found guilty of verbally abusing the batsmen, while Hughes also reacted over-aggressively to a spectator.
On the opening day South Africa recovered from 126 for six to a respectable 251, thanks to a fighting 69 from Rhodes, whose runs came in two crucial partnerships of 68 and 46 with Richardson and De Villiers. The pitch was cracked, but proved home forecasts right and those from the Australian camp wrong, by lasting the five days and not offering inordinate turn to the spinners. None the less it seemed curious that Border did not bowl Warne until the 49th over of the first innings and the 44th of the second, which is thought to have put him in the temper that led to his disgraceful - and almost unprecedented - outburst when he finally came on and dismissed Hudson. Rarely on a cricket field has physical violence seemed so close.
The all-pace attack of South Africa, in contrast, showed commendable discipline and application in bowling Australia out twice, although they were helped by the run-outs of Mark Waugh and Border on the second day. After two almost equal first innings, the failure of anyone but Rhodes to achieve a half-century was put into context in South Africa's second innings. Hudson batted beautifully for 60, and fifties from Peter Kirsten and Wessels provided ideal support for Cronje, whose second Test hundred contained a six and 16 fours. His 122 took four hours and enabled Wessels to set a target of 454 - never achieved to win in Test history - in a minimum of 133 overs. At 136 for two, with Boon in residence, Australia were making a fight of it after the unfortunate Hayden's debut ended with a broken thumb. But poor middle-order batting enabled South Africa to clinch victory with a session to spare, though the Australian last-wicket pair survived for an hour. With storm clouds gathering, May was dismissed by Cronje.
Man of the Match: W. J. Cronje.
Close of play: First day, Australia 34-0 (M. J. Slater 26*, M. L. Hayden 6*); Second day, South Africa 42-0 (A. C. Hudson 22*, G. Kirsten 17*); Third day, South Africa 335-5 (P. N. Kirsten 32*, P. S. De Villiers 4*); Fourth day, Australia 123-2 (D. C. Boon 56*, M. E. Waugh 16*).