Toss: South Africa.
What could have been a thrilling climax to four months of hard-fought and fluctuating cricket between two aggressive, competitive sides ended tamely, with South Africa ignoring their chance to push for victory. By choosing to bowl first on a hard, grassy pitch, Wessels seemed determined to carry the attack to Australia. But once he had bowled them out for 269 and then seen his openers rattle up 100 for the first wicket - all before the end of the second day - his tactics over the next day and a half became baffling.
The loss of three quick wickets on the second evening was a set-back, but not one that should have dictated an overall run-rate of 2.05 an over, in a total of 422 which took nearly 14 hours to compile. It made no sense for the last 100 runs of the innings to use up 50 overs. Even when McMillan and Richardson were out, after adding 143, the tail-end batsman came in to push and prod, putting on five insignificant runs as the last four wickets fell. The futility of such an approach considerably eased Australia's task of saving the match. Border diplomatically confined himself to an expression of disappointment about that dull nature of the game.
Hudson and Rhodes were the most positive in a batting order which chose to put safety first and then pursued it for at least two sessions more than necessary. Warne again proved his worth with four for 92 from 55 overs, and Steve Waugh's three for 40 from 27.2 overs made up for the absence of Hughes and the restricted mobility of McDermott, who returned home with a knee injury soon afterwards.
Waugh and Healy had rescued Australia from a desperate first-day situation of 123 for five with a fighting partnership of 92, but the tourists badly needed a major innings in the last four sessions if they were to save the game and the series. In fact they got two, of contrasting methods. Slater hit 95 from 202 balls, and Mark Waugh followed his first-day 43 with his sixth Test hundred. Once Slater was, perhaps unluckily, l. b. w. for 95 - his third dismissal in the 90s in nine Tests - Waugh took over. His polished 113 not out was studded with his favourite drives and flicks between straight and square leg. Fittingly, it was Border, dropping anchor for over three hours in what was presumed to be his final Test appearance, who helped him to clinch the draw. Donald and Matthews were the pick of the home bowlers, but the match had already proved to be one contest too many.
Man of the Match: M. E. Waugh.
Man of the Series: S. R. Waugh.
Close of play: First day, Australia 241-6 (S. R. Waugh 50*, P. R. Reiffel 8*); Second day, South Africa 143-3 (W. J. Cronje 16*, P. N. Kirsten 14*); Third day, South Africa 322-6 (B. M. McMillan 35*, D. J. Richardson 16*); Fourth day, Australia 89-2 (M. L. Slater 56*, S. K. Warne 4*).