At Adelaide, November 24-27, 2016 (day/night). Australia won by seven wickets. Toss: South Africa. Test debuts: P. S. P. Handscomb, N. J. Maddinson, M. T. Renshaw; T. Shamsi.
Desperate to avoid a sixth successive defeat, Australia's selectors handed out three more Baggy Greens, all to batsmen, bringing the number of players used in the series to 19, an Australian record for a three-match rubber. Against the odds - and to the barely disguised relief of Smith and his embattled employers, not to mention the fans - the new-look team won the pink-ball Test just as Adelaide's floodlights started to kick in on the fourth day.
Two of the debutants were at the crease when the winning runs were scored, the first such occurrence since September 1880 - in the first Test played in England - when Frank Penn and W. G. Grace finished the job against Australia at The Oval. In truth, the 20-year-old Yorkshire-born opener Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb played only minor roles. The impressive new-ball pair of Starc and Hazlewood shared a dozen wickets, while Khawaja responded to being pushed up to open with Australia's only hundred of the series.
They rarely ceded control once Starc removed Elgar in the seventh over, although there was a bravura century from du Plessis, who entered at 44 for three. He was accompanied to the crease by a cacophony of boos, following the Mintgate saga, but responded superbly on the ground where he had made a similarly phlegmatic debut four years earlier. Hazlewood led a vastly improved bowling performance, in which the recalled Bird played the role of back-up seamer with conspicuous success. The best stand du Plessis was able to conjure was 51 with Cook, who on four had walked to within a yard of the boundary before the Starc delivery which had him lbw was judged a no-ball. Du Plessis did add 39 unlikely runs for the last wicket with the debutant Tabraiz Shamsi, before a cheeky late declaration: du Plessis had overheard the umpire telling Warner, who had been off the field, that he would not be able to bat until he had been back on for a few more minutes. It unsettled the Australians, who had to send Khawaja in first, but he and the debutant Renshaw survived 12 overs that night, as the pink ball stubbornly refused to move off the straight.
Khawaja's vigil would last 15 minutes short of eight hours spread across the first three days, the only obvious blemish coming when he ran out his captain, Smith, for a gritty 59. Handscomb batted deep in his crease, giving the quick bowlers a generous look at the stumps - then picked them off either side of the wicket when they excitedly bowled too full or too straight. His half-century was organised and assured. Nic Maddinson, the third debutant, bagged a 12-ball duck, Wade (who had been recalled to keep wicket in place of Peter Nevill) edged behind, and finally Khawaja was trapped by Philander. But Starc knuckled down for two hours, as the lead grew from inconsequential to imposing. When Bird fell shortly after the left-arm unorthodox spinner Shamsi had claimed his maiden Test wicket, Australia were 124 in front.
Cook has few pretensions to elegance or grace, but he is a fighter, and he showed real determination. Wickets kept falling at the other end, however, and he was eventually last out, after six hours and 13 minutes. As in the first innings, meaningful partnerships were hard to come by, at least once Amla departed, having shown signs of a return to form in scoring 45. Australia's task was helped by Lyon, who had been punished in the first two Tests to the tune of two for 241: now he took three wickets, deceiving Duminy, then snaring Bavuma - caught on the sweep - and Abbott in six balls shortly before the end of the third day.
South Africa were effectively 70 for six when the fourth began. Cook was still there, but hopes that de Kock could continue his run of form were dashed when he missed a straight one in the fifth over. The tail cobbled together 49 more, with Cook just having time to reach his second Test hundred, before Starc penetrated his defences. Australia needed only 127 to complete their second comfortable victory in two pink ball Tests at Adelaide, and Warner ensured there would be no slip-ups, hurrying to 47 before Bavuma ran him out for the second time in the series. Khawaja was lbw on review to Shamsi's chinaman for a second-ball duck, but the fresh-faced Renshaw stoically blocked an unbeaten 34 from 137 balls. He ignored the crowd's calls to end the match with a flourish, leaving that to Handscomb's lazy flick through midwicket.
Man of the Match: U. T. Khawaja. Man of the Series: V. D. Philander.