Cape Town: Australia’s Ryan Harris took the last two wickets as South Africa came within five overs of saving the third and final Test on a dramatic day where a third umpire decision came close to deciding the outcome of the match.
South Africa were bowled out for 265 as Australia won the Test and with it, the series, by 245 runs, here, at the Newlands, on Wednesday. It turned out to be a sad exit for South Africa captain Graeme Smith as he retired from international cricket with a defeat.
Not even a controversial third umpire decision could derail Australia’s victory charge, though they left it late in the day to force the win with Harris (four for 32) being the hero.
The Proteas looked as though they would escape with a draw as they got within five overs of safety. But Harris bowled out Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel to seal the issue for the visitors.
David Warner, for his consistency, was named both Man of the Match and the Man of the Series.
Vernon Philander was not out on 51 after surviving a contentious decision with 16 overs remaining that left Australia seething when third umpire Richard Illingworth overturned the on-field umpire’s ruling that went against the South African.
Mitchell Johnson produced a snorter that hit the thumb of Philander before being pouched. But after Philander reviewed, television replays showed that the glove was off the handle when hit by the ball. It turned out to be a fantastic review as the third umpire overturned Aleem Dar’s original decision.
Illingworth’s decision was based on the view that the glove was off the handle.
With Philander getting a reprieve, Australians were seen seething, which led to a verbal confrontation between Michael Clarke and Steyn.
“I didn’t enjoy much of today to be honest. It was a long day and it was getting pretty close at the end,” Clarke said later.
“South Africa have always been the hardest challenge for me as an individual and this series was no different.”
Clarke believed his bowling attack, which he described as the best in the world on arrival in South Africa, made the difference. “Johnson and Harris have been exceptional, James Pattinson has come in and done a job and Nathan Lyon has been good in the series as well.”
South Africa started the day on 71 for four and batted for 94 overs, but could not find an anchor all day, despite a number of candidates emerging.
Philander, Faf du Plessis (47), J.P. Duminy (43) and AB de Villiers (43) all spent time at the crease, but not long enough to save the Proteas from a first series defeat since Australia won by the same scoreline back in the 2008-09 season.
“The resilience and courage the guys showed today was immense. We were outplayed in the entire Test match. So, we needed to find something today. To take it as deep as we did is a huge effort from the boys,” Smith said. “It’s also important to congratulate Michael and the Australia team on a series victory. It’s always been a pleasure playing against them.”