Much as Michael Clarke considered his 151 in Cape Town last year as both his best innings and the most irrelevant, due to the match result, so he may come to judge his run this series. Clarke pushed his batting to new heights in Brisbane and Adelaide with a pair of double-centuries as audacious as they were epic, and also marshalled his resources nicely to take Australia to the brink of a 1-0 series lead. But the bitter taste of a hiding in Perth and the sadness at Ricky Ponting's exit will not sit well with him. As Australia's best batsman, Clarke must now decide whether or not to move up the order.
8 Michael Hussey (295 runs at 59.00)
Like Clarke, Michael Hussey produced some wondrous feats of batsmanship in this series, but the failure to add to them on his home ground in Perth will haunt him. In Brisbane and Adelaide, Hussey started his innings as though he was already well established at the crease, his energy and poise at 37 putting younger men to shame. He also conjured a critical run-out in Adelaide to break Alviro Petersen's opening stand with Graeme Smith. Having played with such vitality against South Africa, Hussey's presence in next year's Ashes tour is now all but assured.
7 Ed Cowan (228 runs at 45.60)
Subject to much speculation over his place entering the series, Ed Cowan made a breakthrough century in Brisbane that confirmed the quality the selectors had backed him to demonstrate, and the aggression he knew lurked within an obdurate exterior. South Africa's speed-oriented attack was suited to Cowan's preference for using the pace of the ball to score runs, and different challenges now await against Sri Lanka and India. Earned his Cricket Australia contract for 2012-13 by appearing in all three Tests.
Peter Siddle (9 wickets at 38.00)
Peter Siddle's figures do not do him justice, as the heartbeat of Australia's attack he bowled himself into the ground in Adelaide in pursuit of victory, so much so that he could not be considered for Perth. Siddle's value was made plain in his absence, as Clarke sorely missed the Victorian's blend of wholehearted effort and now considerable skill. Had a quieter match in Brisbane, but remains the closest thing Australia have to a spearhead.
James Pattinson (5 wickets at 38.40)
The rib/cartilage injury James Pattinson suffered in the first innings in Adelaide can be isolated as a turning point in the series. Up to that moment he had been Australia's spikiest fast bowler, and had he been fit it is hard to imagine South Africa wriggling out of the second Test with a draw. But injuries appear a sadly inevitable part of bowling fast at the age of 22, and Pattinson's arrived despite a careful lead-in to the summer. So long as he develops the required durability, Pattinson's future is decidedly bright.
6 David Warner (206 runs at 41.20)
One sparkling century, one handy score and one abject dismissal at precisely the wrong time. David Warner's mixed bag in this series was of the sort that can be expected so long as he bats at the top of the order for Australia. His innings on the first day in Adelaide was spectacular, and influential, but struggles in Brisbane and Perth demonstrated how Warner will likely never earn the tag "reliable". Still, his strokeplay is singularly destructive when it comes off, and has a greater chance of doing so while Warner maintains an uncluttered mindset. Handy leg breaks, too.
Nathan Lyon (12 wickets at 40.50)
Injury and prevailing conditions cast Nathan Lyon in the lead bowling role in Adelaide, and he came close to fulfilling it ably. He bowled long spells, claimed regular wickets, and showed developing flair by delivering his backspinner "Jeff" with aplomb. Lyon's dominance of Jacques Rudolph was the most conclusive victory by an Australian bowler over a South African batsman, and his harsh treatment in the second innings in Perth was not unexpected after the pacemen commanded neither wickets nor economy.
Mitchell Starc (8 wickets at 26.12)
Perth witnessed Mitchell Starc at both his world-class best and his wayward worst. His pair of late inswingers to clean bowl Petersen and Jacques Kallis on the first morning were indicators of how Starc may be able to confound batsmen in years to come, but loose spells on days two and three demonstrated how much he still has to learn. Showed resilience to come back well and claim six second-innings wickets, and spirit to hit out for an unbeaten 68 with the match in its death throes. Should be persisted with.
5 Matthew Wade (121 runs at 30.25, 8 catches, 1 stumping)
Granted a vaunted commission when the selectors retained him ahead of Brad Haddin at the start of the series, Matthew Wade's first steps as Australia's No. 1 Test gloveman were not always steady. Endured a difficult match in Adelaide when he missed a pair of important chances up to the stumps, and played a poor stroke on the final day of the series in Perth. Nonetheless, Wade's fighting instinct is undoubted, and his first innings at the WACA was Adam Gilchrist in miniature. With Haddin pressing hard to regain his spot in New South Wales, Wade cannot afford an indifferent series against Sri Lanka.
Ben Hilfenhaus (6 wickets at 35.50)
In contrast to Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus' respectable figures flatter him. For long stretches of Brisbane and Adelaide he kept batsmen quiet without ever looking like getting them out, having lapsed via Twenty20 into some of the bad old ways of the 2010-11 Ashes series. Reports varied as to whether Hilfenhaus was unfit for Perth or simply dropped, and he has some work to do in order to regain the bite he showed against India and the West Indies last summer.
Mitchell Johnson (6 wickets at 27.33, 4 catches)
Apart from an altered approach to the bowling crease, the new and improved Mitchell Johnson looked very much like the old. He threatened in bursts at the WACA ground, notably bullying South Africa's debutant Dean Elgar, but did not move the ball much and oscillated in pace. Johnson's undoubted athleticism and durability mean he will remain a part of Australia's broadening pace bowling battery, but a consistent place may be as elusive for Johnson as consistent form.
4 Shane Watson (35 runs at 17.50, 1 wicket at 46.00)
The subject of acres of newsprint over the first two Tests, Shane Watson returned to the team with more whimper than bang in Perth. He bowled presentably, batted forgettably, and did little to suggest he should be Australia's long-term Test match No. 3. Part of Australia's problem is that via a glut of limited-overs cricket Watson has developed into a far cannier bowler than batsman, and for now he appears better suited to a commission lower in the batting order than first-drop.
3 Ricky Ponting (32 runs at 6.40)
For all the affecting fanfare surrounding his final Test match, Ricky Ponting's final tilt at the ICC's world No. 1 spot proved to be a series too far. His batting deteriorated to the point that even Ponting's self-belief was shaken, leading to an emotional retirement announcement before the Perth Test. One of the curious things about Ponting's decline is that his fielding and catching remained razor-sharp to the last, and his example around the team unsurpassed. Given his love for the game, it would not be a total surprise to see Ponting slip into the batting coach position vacated by Justin Langer.
Rob Quiney (9 runs at 3.00, 5 catches)
Unfortunately for Rob Quiney, the rave reviews he received for making a mere nine in his first Test innings was as good as things were to get. Nipped out for a pair in Adelaide, his chances of returning to the team in place of Ponting rest with the national selectors. Quiney's temperament is much admired, and his catching and bowling in the series were useful, but his batting retains the air of a club and T20 cricketer who has tried to manufacture a more serviceable technique for the longer form.
John Hastings (1 wicket at 153.00, 52 runs at 26.00)
A fair choice as the into-the-wind merchant for Australia at the WACA ground, John Hastings disappointed, not so much for the fleeting swing he gained but for how his control varied so much. At only a fraction fast than medium pace, Hastings needed to be precise, and far too often he wasn't, something exploited mercilessly by Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers.