At Johannesburg, November 17-21. Australia won by two wickets. Toss: South Africa. Test debut: P. J. Cummins.
Australia held their nerve to creep over the line in conditions that were as orthodox as those in Cape Town were outlandish. The Wanderers pitch demanded old-fashioned application but, among the home batsmen, only Kallis, de Villiers and Prince faced up to that challenge on the first day. The remainder approached their task with a startling recklessness, and even the few batsmen who did forge ahead were removed as much by their own hand as the bowlers'. On top of that, Australia's attack was a man down from the 19th over, when a hamstring strain ended Watson's day.
Siddle bent his back to dislodge Kallis - who had become the fourth batsman to reach 12,000 Test runs - and de Villiers, and Australia dismissed South Africa inside a day, despite losing more than an hour to bad light, and 13 minutes to a sports-drink advert on the sightscreen which refused to switch off after the tea break. Eventually the groundstaff obscured it with a white sheet. The gloom returned to force a premature end to the second day and, like their opponents, Australia were despatched earlier than a more measured attitude would have allowed.
They led by 30 on first innings, thanks almost exclusively to their openers, Watson and Hughes, who each scored 88. For almost the first time since his whirlwind start to Test cricket in this country two and a half years earlier, Hughes began to look like the rapier he had promised to be. From 174 without loss, they lost all ten wickets for 122.
Steyn swung the wrecking-ball at the top of the innings, while Imran Tahir, the leg- spinner who barely got a look-in on debut at Newlands, revelled in his chance to wrap up the tail. Amla and de Villiers then displayed patience in bundles on a third day curtailed to 68.2 overs by the light.
They were helped by the continued absence from the attack of Watson, which forced Clarke to put more faith than he might have planned in Pat Cummins, the 18-year-old debutant playing in only his fourth first-class match. He repaid his captain in style. Clarke confined him to six-over spells, but he took two of the three wickets to fall on the third day, and added four more to finish with six for 79 - the best figures by an Australian in South Africa since re- admission. The lively Cummins also became the first Australian fast bowler to take five wickets on debut since Stuart Clark at Cape Town in 2005-06. His roughing-up of Kallis was a joy - and it ended with a snorter nicked to slip. Amla stole a little of Cummins's thunder by scoring his 14th Test century, and adding 147 with de Villiers. But the fall of seven for 102 meant Australia - at one stage apparently out of it - now had a sniff, even if they would need 310, the highest fourth-innings total to win at the Wanderers.
f Ponting's duck in the first innings seemed a death knell for his career, the half-century he eked out in the second was a stay of execution. First he and the endearingly obdurate Khawaja steadied the innings after Watson had been shot out second ball by Philander, who was on course for another five-wicket haul in his second Test. Then Hussey, Haddin and Johnson nursed, nurdled and nuked Australia towards victory. But Philander's smoking aggression kept the South Africans in it and, when Steyn despatched Siddle with 18 needed and two wickets left, all four results were possible until Cummins smeared Tahir through the on side for the winning runs. Never had two Tests seemed so insufficient.
Man of the Match: P. J. Cummins. Man of the Series: V. D. Philander.
Close of play: First day, South Africa 266; Second day, South Africa 0-0 (Smith 0, Rudolph 0); Third day, South Africa 229-3 (Amla 89, de Villiers 70); Fourth day, Australia 142-3 (Ponting 54, Clarke 1).
Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa