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South Africa record mammoth win in Perth to win the series 1-0

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The South African cricket team retained their coveted no.1 ranking in test cricket with a thumping 309 run victory over their arch rivals Australia in Perth on Thursday, thanks to which they also won the hard fought 3 test match series 1-0. Having started the day needing all 10 Aussie wickets to win on a gradually flattening pitch, the South African bowlers were immaculate in their line and length throughout the day. Consequently, they bowled the hosts out for a below par 322 in their second innings, having set the Aussies an unlikely target of 632 to win. Spin bowler Robin Peterson (3-127) and pace Spearhead Dale Steyn (3-72) starred for the visitors while none of the Aussie batsmen managed to convert their promising starts into big scores. This huge loss for the Aussies meant that they had now lost consecutive series' at home to the Proteas following their loss back in 2008.

Having survived yet another awkward session late on day 3, the Aussie openers Dave Warner and Ed Cowan had a monumental task ahead of them. Resuming on 40-0 in pursuit of an unlikely 632 runs to win, the left handed pair needed to take as much time out of the remaining two days as possible. It was South Africa who drew first blood though as Vernon Philander got one to seam away from Warner, the very second ball of the day, inducing the edge that was taken safely by skipper Graeme Smith. It was the second time that Warner failed to convert a start in the match as he departed for 29.

That wicket brought in the Aussie vice-captain Shane Watson to the middle and he along with Cowan were given a stern examination from the South African new ball bowlers for the next 40 minutes. Plenty of plays and misses followed but the pair survived and seemed to have weathered the storm. Both Watson and Cowan were circumspect early on but just as they were beginning to open their shoulders, the big Morne Morkel ended the stand with a brilliant over to Watson. He got Watson to sway away from a sharp bouncer before inducing a tentative prod off the front foot which took the edge and carried to Smith at first slip again. Watson departed for a promising 25, bringing to the wicket the great Ricky Ponting, in his last test innings. ‘Punter’ was greeted with a guard of honor from the South African team and came out to enormous ovation at the WACA.

The great batsman rolled back the years with a characteristic pull shot fetched from outside off stump off Morkel to get his innings started before punching one back past the bowler with a text book on drive to settle the nerves. It wasn’t to be a big Ponting innings we were accustomed to seeing over the years though as he fell for 8, caught smartly at slip by Kallis, attempting a cut shot too close to his body off Robin Peterson. The great Aussie leader walked away to a fabulous reception and drew the curtains on an immensely successful career as player and captain.

His successor and current Aussie skipper Michael Clarke came out to face 2 deliveries prior to lunch and made his intentions clear, crunching two boundaries off them against the left arm spinner Peterson. Australia were far from safe at lunch on day 4 though at 110/3, in pursuit of 632 to win.

The session after Tea was all about knuckling down and playing out time for the Aussies, having already lost 3 big wickets. Aussie skipper Michael Clarke, who was rather aggressive in his approach before lunch, decided to calm down and build a stand with opener Cowan. Ed Cowan got to his 50 a couple of overs after tea with a square drive past point off Dale Steyn but a lapse in concentration led to his downfall soon after. The patient left hander fell for the trap set on the hook shot in the deep as he was enticed into an uppish pull stroke by Steyn. He only managed to hit it straight down the throat of deep square leg after having made 53.

Australia’s best batsmen in the series, Clarke and Mike Hussey then got together to try and repair the damage, like they have numerous times this season. Clarke looked in sublime form once again, playing both pace and spin with ease on a wicket that had lost its steep bounce. Hussey, who has had his fair share of problems facing Morne Morkel this series, was circumspect looking to get his eye in. The pair looked untroubled for more than an hour leading up to tea before a rush of blood from Clarke gave South Africa a big wicket. The classy batsman looked to give left arm spinner Peterson the charge and was beaten in the flight, only to be stumped for an entertaining 44 off just 52 balls.

That wicket was just the opening South Africa needed to go for the kill before tea, and that they did in fine style over the next 40 minutes.

Proteas spearhead Dale Steyn induced a false drive from the normally resolute Mike Hussey from around the wicket and got his man caught behind for just 26, a couple of overs later.

With Australia 6 down and on the brink of a heavy defeat, the fight disappeared from the Aussies as their last recognized batsman in Matthew Wade too fell soon, courtesy a lazy shot against Robin Peterson, caught at mid-wicket for just 10, right on the verge of tea.

As a result of that quick collapse Australia slumped to a woeful 204/7 at Tea on day 4 still needing more than 400 runs to win.

With the Aussies 7 down, it was only a matter of when and not whether the Proteas could wrap things up and seal a series victory. South Africa started the countdown early in the final session as Vernon Philander got Mitchell Johnson (3) to nick one behind, 3 overs after tea. They got another 3 overs later as John Hastings (20), in the hangover of having hit Peterson for a couple of sixes, drove ambitiously at a full delivery from Morkel and nicked one through to Smith in first slip.

Just 1 wicket away from another famous win in Perth following their faboulous 6 wicket win here in 2008, the South Africans had to deal with an unexpected counter attack. Australia’s no 10 Mitchell Starc and no.11 Nathan Lyon entertained the capacity crowd at the WACA with some belligerent hitting for nearly an hour. Starc in particular took his chances against the spin of Peterson and part-timer Du Plessis and they paid off.

The Left hander struck 9 fours and 2 towering sixes on his way to a swashbuckling 68* off just 43 balls with shots all around the park. He was kept good company by Nathan Lyon who also made merry on what had turned into a flat track by scoring 31 off 43 deliveries in an astounding partnership worth 87 off just 75 balls.

That last wicket stand was only academic though as Dale Steyn picked up the final wicket eventually having Lyon caught behind to seal a resounding 309 run win for the Proteas and re-affirm their no.1 test status.

A thumping loss at home to the world no.1 test side will no doubt deflate the Aussies but will be pleased with the positives they took from the series and look to bounce back for the rest of the home season that features Sri Lanka as the visitors. The South Africans on the other hand are now the undisputed no.1 side in the world having beaten a strong Aussie team in their own backyard. This victory should take them places in terms of the morale of the team and this might just be the start of a golden era in South African cricket.

Mini Scorecard

South Africa 1st innings 225 all out (74 overs, 3.1 rpo)
F Du Plessis 78*(142) M Johnson 2/54
R Peterson 31(45) N Lyon 3/41

Australia 1st innings 163 all out (53.1 overs, 3.06 rpo)
M Wade 68 (102) D Steyn 4/40
J Hastings 32(58) R Peterson 3/44

South Africa 2nd innings 569 all out (111.5 overs, 5.08 rpo)
H Amla 196 (221) M Johnson 4-108
AB de Villiers 169 (184) M Starc 6-154

Australia 2nd innings 322 all out (82.5 overs,3.88 rpo)
M Starc 68*(43) R Peterson 3/127
E Cowan 53(149) D Steyn 3/72

South Africa win by 309 runs