Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Australia makes the most of flat South Africa

As you would expect from World Cup champions, Australia bounced off the ropes and stubbed out South Africa's aim of wrapping up the Challenge Series at Newlands last night and head for the Wanderers on Sunday mentally better prepared.

It has been a long summer, though and the signs of fatigue are starting to show: South Africa feeling the brunt of a tougher end-of-season programme than their visitors, and they knew it was going to be a lot harder to pull that extra out of their physical and mental reserves.

The result was an Australian victory by five wickets and such was Steve Waugh's confidence he allowed the others to get a "middle net" and declined to strap on his pads as South Africa produced an embarrassing powder-puff effort.

After the Kingsmead success South Africa's need to do it again 48 hours later proved one game too many: now Shaun Pollock's side need to deliver if they hope to retain their mental and physical self-possession before the season slips quietly into the autumn mist.

And such was the Kangaroo hop, skip and jump on a breezy evening, the winning runs were on the board before their innings reached the halfway mark as Andrew Symonds and Ian Harvey saw the visitors home.

It was going to need a particularly special finely-tuned bowling and fielding performance from South Africa if they hoped to win after scrambling to an ungainly 144 for eight, after being sent into bat by Steve Waugh when he won the toss. No doubts there are going to be a few hangovers this morning from those who were at Newlands to watch the demise.

South Africa's bowling was as untidy as had Australia's on Wednesday and suffered as a consequence.

With Damien Martyn, who stapled the Aussie innings together at Kingsmead on Wednesday, in the sort of expansive batting mood which earned him the man of the match award, the Wizards of Oz were rarely under pressure in chasing the meagre target.

It could have been interesting had Harvey been caught by Jacques Kallis in the slips off Mornantau Hayward's bowing, but in reality, the game was, by then already over.

Martyn's variations of slam, bang and wham saw him reach 50 off 32 balls with 10 boundaries: it sealed the sort of comprehensive victory which make Australia just that too accomplished in both forms of the game.

Kallis did produce a couple of overs at the start of his new-ball spell with Shaun Pollock which had the Aussies rocking at 21 for three at the end of the fourth over, but Martyn took charge and whatever slim gameplan South Africa had was blown apart.

Not that they could have had much of a gameplan: defending a target of 145 gives a captain few options and Pollock seemed to realise it, using only four bowlers in the process.

As it is South Africa's innings failed to function as it had done at Kingsmead where, in any case, they batted second. For some reason against Australia they seem to find chasing a target easier than setting one and with only two partnerships of 20 or more, it was a lot harder to build a match-winning total.

Gary Kirsten, the hero of Kingsmead on Wednesday night, and Neil McKenzie chiselled away at the rock face of the Australian bowling to add 39 before the left-hander chased one wide and Shane Warne collected the catch in the slips off the bowling of Shane Lee, the older of the two brothers from the coastal city of Wollongong.

It was hard work too. So fluent and at times expansive in his driving at Kingsmead, Kirsten had to graft for his runs and boundaries were few.

McKenzie watched the demise of the middle-order with Kallis and Jonty Rhodes departing for five and eight apiece as the visitors, having improved on their ground fielding, choked off the scoring opportunities they had allowed to slip through on Wednesday night. Their catching was also made easier as the South African batsmen fell into the trap of falling to edges behind the wicket.

In a sense it gave Adam Gilchrist the chance to establish a world record at LOIs level with six dismissals in an innings which finally edged ahead of the cluster of wicketkeepers who had five dismissals. Mark Boucher could have had it at Kingsmead but for a dropped catch off a top-edge. Whether South Africa would have reached the 150 mark is another matter as Lance Klusener's efforts in the last over were partly strangled by tight fielding and an improved bowling display with Shane Warne tying down one end with Glenn McGrath the other. And you cannot get much better than that.