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Australia in SA - Series Review
05 Apr 2006
By: Arunava Das


A tour that began with a promising South African win ended with Australia whitewashing the hosts in the Tests to yet again assert their dominance over South Africa.

Despite a 3-2 win in the five-match ODI series and a victory in the opening Twenty20 international, the South Africans ultimately disappointed their fans and slumped to their worst Test series loss for some time. Although coming up against a somewhat inexperienced Australian outfit, the South African performance showed just how large a gulf there is between the two teams.

As is slowly becoming the trend, the tourists began their campaign not with any first-class or List-A matches against provincial teams, but with a Twenty20 international match against the hosts. The Proteas took that match by the slim margin of only two runs.

Of more interest to South African fans was the return to form of their skipper, Graeme Smith. Leading the way in the opening match with an aggressive 89, it looked as if Smith might have finally put the form and technical problems of the Australian tour behind him. It was a false dawn though, and come the Test matches, Smith's batting looked as frail as it had in Australia.

The five one day internationals saw South Africa battle hard to take the series. It was the first time since 2000 that the South Africans were victorious in a bilateral ODI series against the world champions.

Although the final series score line was close, the first two matches were easy wins for the home team. Graeme Smith smashed a century to enable the Proteas to canter to a win by six wickets in the first ODI, while Makhaya Ntini returned the best bowling figures by a South African in ODIs to crush the Aussies by 196 runs in the second match.

This loss clearly galvanised Australia and they hit back well to take the third ODI by 24 runs. More important for the tourists though, was the return to form of Brett Lee, taking 4-48 after having struggled for some time in the shorter form of the game.

The fourth match was a nailbiter, and would be remembered as a great match were it not for the incredible feats to follow in the next game. The tourists took the match by the slimmest of margins, stuttering to 247/9 in pursuit of the South African total of 246.

However, the final match of the series overshadowed anything that had happened in the series previously and stunned the cricketing world. In a match of stupefying batting feats, Australia posted a world record score of 434/4 in 50 overs, only to see it overtaken in the final over of the match.

The figures themselves tell the story: 872 runs in 50 overs for the loss of 14 wickets. Two individual scores over 150 and five more scores between 50 and 100 with 87 fours and 26 sixes. The eventual victory was again by only one wicket, but both teams could scarcely believe what had happened.

After such a match, the Test series was sure to be a let-down of sorts. However, the Proteas failed to continue the good work they had done in the preceding ODI series while the Aussies picked themselves up admirably to romp to an easy win.

The match was notable for a brilliant debut bowling performance from Stuart Clark. Picked to replace Glenn McGrath, Clark had big shoes to fill. He responded with a performance the great man himself would be proud of, picking up nine wickets in the match. However, the contribution of Lee cannot be underestimated. He combined explosive pace with new-found accuracy and with Clark, proved to be the difference between the two teams. The pair combined to take 37 wickets at the paltry cost of 17.54 apiece while conceding only 2.77 runs per over.

Low on confidence after their capitulation in the first Test, South Africa was looking to make amends and stay alive in the series.

Unfortunately for them, a virtuoso performance by Ricky Ponting sealed their fate.

Ponting struck two hundreds in the match for the third time to bury the Proteas, despite some late resistance from Boucher. Boucher had proved to be a thorn in the Aussies' side in the series in Australia as well as prior to the Test matches with some comments to the media. However, he could not save the match for his team and the South Africans had yet again been beaten in a Test series by Australia.

Not since 1970 have South Africa won a Test series against Australia.

South Africa entered the final Test hoping to save face and take their first Test against Australia for the season.

It was not to be though, with a finish reminiscent of Edgbaston 2005 but with a happier ending for Australia consigning South Africa to their second whitewash in a Test series against Australia, the last time being in 1931/32.

Both teams were hampered by injuries in the final Test, and it took an extraordinary all-round performance by Brett Lee and some gutsy knocks by Hussey and Martyn to take the Aussies to victory. Makhaya Ntini did his best to prevent the series whitewash, taking 10 wickets in the match but it was all in vain. Ntini himself was one of the few South Africans to come out of the series with some credit.

Contrastingly, many of the Australians performed well above average and they could take many positives out of the tour, the most significant being the emergence of Stuart Clark.

Cricket Web Ratings

Australia

9 - Brett Lee
A poor showing in the ODIs didn't overshadow his brilliant Test match form, both with the ball and the bat. Finally looks ready to take over the mantle of leading strike bowler for the Aussies.

9 - Stuart Clark
As with Lee, below par in the ODIs but with an extraordinary bowling performance in his debut Test series. The Man of the Series award tells it all.

9 - Nathan Bracken
Has reason to feel hard done by with his non-selection for the Tests, but proved his worth in the ODIs with 9 wickets at 23.88.

9 - Michael Hussey
Continued his emergence as a world class talent by performing in both forms of the game and batting intelligently with the tail in the Tests.

9 - Ricky Ponting
Captained well and batted superbly, befitting his status as the world's number one ranked batsman.

7 - Shane Warne
Despite not bowling at his best, managed 15 wickets at 28.20 in the Tests whilst also contributing useful lower order runs.

7 - Brad Hogg
Australia's ODI spin specialist did a steady job without taking a bagful. Was inexplicably left out of two of the five ODIs.

6 - Damien Martyn
Possibly saved his place in the side with a determined century in the final Test. Was a flop in the ODIs, however.

6 - Matthew Hayden
Although the figures don't look impressive with 231 runs at 38.50, his 94 in the first Test was crucial.

6 - Michael Kasprowicz
Took up the responsibility of being the senior bowler in the side, although he was soon relegated to first change by Stuart Clark. An injury in the final Test ruled him out of the upcoming Bangladesh tour, and he will find it difficult to break back into the team.

5 - Simon Katich
Criticised for batting too slowly at the top of the order, but provided a steady influence for the more aggressive players to bat around.

5 - Adam Gilchrist
Kept wickets flawlessly but in a worrying trend, yet again didn't perform with the bat.

5 - Andrew Symonds
Performed well in the ODIs after coming back from injury, but looked out of his depth at Test level. Won't get too many more chances to prove his worth in the Test side.

5 - Shane Watson
Despite limited opportunities, turned in a decent performance with the ball but failed with the bat.

4 - Michael Clarke
Managed one 50, but only six runs in three other innings in the ODI series.

2 - Phil Jaques
Only played one innings and departed for no score.

2 - Mick Lewis
One good match was overshadowed with terrible performances in the other two, including that world record breaking match.

1 - Mitchell Johnson
Taken apart in the one match he played, he still isn't ready for international cricket.

South Africa

8 - Makhaya Ntini
Took a South African best 6-22 in the 2nd ODI and returned excellent figures in the Test series including a 3rd 10 wicket haul.

7 - Mark Boucher
Contributed useful runs in both the Tests and ODIs while 'keeping steadily. He and Ntini were the only South Africans to turn in above-average performances.

6 - Shaun Pollock
A brilliant all-round showing in the ODI series, but after an injury in the 4th ODI looked nowhere near his best for the Test series.

6 - Johan van der Wath
Played only in that match at the Wanderers and made a crucial 35. Bowling was taken apart, although he was hardly alone in that regard.

6 - Ashwell Prince
Still had his troubles with Warne, but contributed a determined 93 in the third Test to keep South Africa in the hunt.

5 - Jacques Kallis
Did little in the ODIs, but a gutsy performance in the Tests showed what he is capable of. Back to bowling at somewhere near his best.

5 - Andre Nel
Bowled better than his figures suggest despite carrying an injury throughout the series.

5 - Graeme Smith
Looked to be back in good form in the ODIs, but fell apart in the Test matches. Captaincy was uninspiring, and Kallis looked better in the last Test when Smith was injured.

5 - Boeta Dippenaar
Made a century in the ODIs but did little else. Also played in one Test match contributing 32 and 20.

5 - Nicky Boje
Made a couple of good contributions with the bat while never giving up with the ball.

5 - Herschelle Gibbs
Had a great time in the ODIs, scoring his highest ODI score at the Wanderers but like Smith, fell apart in the Tests.

5 - AB de Villiers
Some decent contributions in the ODI series and looked in good touch in the Tests without ever going on to make a big score.

5 - Justin Kemp
Didn't perform at his best but still managed a decent showing when given the chance.

4 - Andrew Hall
Bowled with heart but went unrewarded, while he batted well in the single Test he played.

4 - Robin Peterson
Although economical, he lacked penetration. Still looks a level below international-class.

3 - Roger Telemachus
Very inconsistent, with one good match sandwiched by two terrible matches. Showed some good hitting ability with the bat.

Australia in South Africa

Twenty20 International - South Africa won by 2 runs

1st ODI - South Africa won by 6 wickets
2nd ODI - South Africa won by 196 runs
3rd ODI - Australia won by 24 runs
4th ODI - Australia won by 1 wicket
5th ODI - South Africa won by 1 wicket

1st Test - Australia won by 7 wickets
2nd Test - Australia won by 112 runs
3rd Test - Australia won by 2 wickets

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