Third Test Match

Australia v South Africa

Toss: South Africa. Test debut: S. C. G. MacGill.

Dropped catches - at least ten of them - scuppered South Africa's chances of the victory they needed to square the series. Their failure was felt most keenly by their captain, Cronje, who speared a stump through the door of the umpires' room. Some pundits suggested Cronje should be banned: in the end, a letter of apology seemed to settle the matter. Perhaps the biggest frustration for Cronje was knowing that, had Donald been able to play, even the missed chances would probably not have mattered. Instead, Donald was a rather uncomfortable spectator, nursing a buttock-muscle strain sustained during the one-day series, which South Africa had contrived to lose after dominating the early stages. Adams was dropped, and Klusener and Rhodes returned.

Australia were also handicapped by injuries to McGrath (back) and Reiffel (finger), which meant that Kasprowicz and Bichel opened the bowling. A newcomer was Stuart MacGill, the New South Wales leg-spinner who played one match for Somerset in 1997. A purveyor of shorter, flatter leg-spin than Warne, not unlike Zimbabwe's Paul Strang in appearance and delivery, MacGill outbowled his jaded senior, who was troubled by his shoulder. Openers Bacher and Kirsten, who hit 21 boundaries between them, made the most of the makeshift new-ball attack. They put on 105 in the first session, and 140 in all. However, apart from Cronje, no one else cashed in until McMillan's belated return to form. Pollock and Klusener helped him add 138, then McMillan was almost a bystander as last man Symcox clubbed a rapid fifty from 42 balls.

Australia's reply owed almost everything to Taylor, who played a classic captain's innings. He hit 21 fours from 376 balls, and became the ninth Australian to carry his bat in a Test - the first since David Boon at Auckland in 1985-86. On a pitch offering little help, Pollock did his utmost to make up for Donald's absence. With high pace and not much luck, he took a Test-best seven for 87. But Kasprowicz and MacGill helped Taylor lead Australia past the follow-on. South Africa were left to rue their five dropped catches, a figure they matched in the second innings. Kirsten's sixth Test century - he hit 17 fours and a six - set up a declaration which left Australia 361 in 109 overs.

Elliott went early and Taylor soon followed, after nearly 24 hours on the field, but Pollock was unable to repeat his earlier heroics, and a century from Mark Waugh took Australia to safety. He batted 404 minutes and hit 16 fours, but was the centre of controversy late on: he received a Pollock lifter which hit him on the arm, and walked away as if in disgust; as he did so, his bat brushed the stumps and dislodged a bail. The South Africans appealed vehemently, even though he had clearly finished his stroke and could not therefore have been given out hit wicket under Law 35. The umpires prolonged the agony, consulting the third umpire, Steve Davis. South Africa's misery was compounded when Bacher, at short leg, dropped Waugh next ball. In fact, Waugh was dropped four times, three of them by Bacher.

Richardson announced his retirement after the match, in which his opposite number, Ian Healy, became the fourth Australian to play in 100 Tests. Healy's father, Neville, had died a week before the game, and the Australians wore black armbands in his memory on the first day. Umpire Steve Randell was standing in his 33rd Test, equalling Tony Crafter's Australian record.

Man of the Match: S. M. Pollock. Man of the Series: S. K. Warne.

Attendance: 74,346.

Close of play: First day, South Africa 269-4 (W. J. Cronje 70*, D. J. Richardson 0*); Second day, Australia 71-1 (M. A. Taylor 26*, G. S. Blewett 31*); Third day, Australia 327-9 (M. A. Taylor 157*, S. C. G. MacGill 2*); Fourth day, Australia 32-2 (G. S. Blewett 9*, M. E. Waugh 11*).

© John Wisden & Co