Ponting leads Australia home

A brutal assault from Ricky Ponting has led Australia to a crushing eight wicket win on the final day of the third test at the SCG. Well supported by Matthew Hayden, the Australian captain scored his second century of the test to see Australia to their target with ease and time to spare.

South Africa began the final day in need of quick runs to facilitate a declaration, and while Jacques Kallis played a successful anchoring role for the second time in the match, the batsmen at the other end attacked. Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher make valuable but brief contributions, and Shaun Pollock peformed very well for an aggressive unbeaten innings of 26. Kallis displayed some improvisation as he upped his scoring rate on the final morning, reverse sweeping the spinners who began the day operating from both ends, and he remained unbeaten when the declaration came. Smith was sporting, leaving Australia a very gettable 287 to win from 76 overs, with an hour to play before lunch.

The period before lunch was always going to be a difficult one, as insistent cloud cover and a new ball offered assistance to the South African seam attack, and Charl Langeveldt was dangerous from the start, swinging the ball both ways and causing many problems for the Australian openers. Justin Langer took a toll on the bowling with consecutive cover drives for boundaries, but Langeveldt dealt the decisive blow of the mini-session, bowling Langer with a beautiful delivery that swung back sharply and went between bat and pad to hit middle.

The post-lunch session was a different affair, as Ricky Ponting showed to the much-criticised Jacques Kallis just how to turn a game with the bat. Ponting was merciless on the South African attack, on a pitch which displayed only a few demons, and soon the South Africans appeared to lose hope in snaring the 9 wickets necessary to manage a series draw. Ponting was brutally aggressive against the seamers, particularly Andre Nel, and the Australians rolled along at a run a ball and above in the first half-hour after lunch, forcing repeated bowling changes from Graeme Smith. Smith remained aggressive with his field placings, but debutant off-spinner Botha seemed unthreatening, and without Makhaya Ntini the South Africans lacked an authorititive presence with the older ball.

Matthew Hayden was similarly aggressive, but seemed perpetually in a secondary role to his captain, despite being the first of the two to the half-century mark. Ponting brought up his own 50 at close to a run a ball, and his century seemed nothing more than a matter of time, as he sent the ball to the fence with incredible ease and without the slightest risk repeatedly.

The part-time spinner Jacques Rudolph was used extensively as the day wore on, seeming more likely to take wickets than his specialist counterpart, but Rudolph’s inexperience showed as he strayed in line and length and he too was unable to contain the scoring rate.

Hayden and Ponting appeared destined for twin centuries as the score moved beyond 200, before Hayden tried to send Botha to the fence one time too many and skied a straightforward chance to Smith. That brought Brad Hodge to the crease, who once again played a secondary role as Ponting moved towards his second century of the match and his fifth of the summer. He brought it up with a flick through the off-side for three, sparking the most demostrative celebrations of all Ponting’s centuries this summer. It was his 28th in test cricket, and his third in his last three innings at the SCG, as he became the first man to score a century in each innings of his one hundredth test, capping off a perfect home summer as the captain of the Australian side as they recovered from an Ashes upset in 2005.

Ponting never looked like getting out as he moved beyond his century, becoming just the fourth Australian to score 500 runs in a three test series, and he pushed Australia to an eight wicket victory with more than a dozen overs to spare. After a difficult 2005, some struggles with the captaincy and even some poor form with the bat, all is definately well tonight for Ricky Ponting and his Australian team.

South Africa 451
Ashwell Prince 119, Jacques Kallis 111
Brett Lee 3/82, Glenn McGrath 2/65

Australia 359
Ricky Ponting 120, Adam Gilchrist 86
Andre Nel 4/81, Jacques Kallis 2/25

South Africa 6/194 dec.
Herschelle Gibbs 67, Jacques Kallis 50*
Stuart MacGill 3/33, Brett Lee 1/48

Australia 2/288
Ricky Ponting 143*, Matthew Hayden 90
Charl Langeveldt 1/52, Johan Botha 1/77

Australia win by 8 wickets.
Australia win the 3 test series 2-0.

CricketWeb Man of the Match
Ricky Ponting – 120 & 143*

CricketWeb Man of the Series
Ricky Ponting – 515 runs @ 103.00

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