A MASSIVE 492 runs… the biggest winning margin by a South African XI against Australia was in the end almost an inconsequential, as KEN PIESSE reports from Johannesburg:
THE AUSTRALIANS couldn’t get off the famed Wanderers Stadium quickly enough today. After Tim Paine spoke diplomatically at the presentation ceremony of the challenges his patched-up team had faced over the past week, he and the rest of them quickly retreated into the rooms in the depths of the Bullring. The final rites had taken just 80 minutes.
Seeing members of our Australian Cricket Society tour group standing on the sidelines hoping for a quick chat, Darren Lehmann, in his last official minutes as team coach, and younger members Peter Handscomb, Jhye Richardson and Chadd Sayers broke rank and spoke to our group, signing autographs and posing for photographs.
We’d come a long way to support the team and they thanked us sincerely.
The last fortnight of Lehmann’s five-year term has been a nightmare. And it showed in his face.
The Australians had collapsed for a second time in a week, losing their last seven wickets for just 31 runs.
Peter Handscomb, with 24, was brave, but the rest were simply blown away as Vernon Philander took six wickets for just 12 in 32 deliveries.
Included was his 200th Test wicket when Mitchell Marsh, his feet stuck on the crease, edged an outswinger behind.
Off the field, aircraft schedules were quickly being re assessed. Just when was the next flight out?
The South Africans spoke later of the need to break the Australians down mentally and physically. It was why, Faf du Plessis said, that they had batted so long into the afternoon on the fourth day. After Australia’s opening ill-tempered victory at Kingsmead never before had he seen his players so motivated to perform. And three Tests later, the Proteas had reigned, winning in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg…. their first home series win against the Aussies since Unity.
While Philander was man of the match, Kagiso Rabada was man of the series with 23 wickets at an average of under 20.
Rabada described Australia as a great cricketing nation and spoke of how his own team had responded superbly after being under the pump after Durban. He said he was very proud to have played in the same team as Philander and Morne Morkel, especially as it was Morkel’s farewell appearance.
Philander’s figures of six for 21 was a career best effort. Coming from the Press Box end, he made his very first ball of the day lift and veer at Shaun Marsh who edged it into his pad before it ballooned into the slips.
Mitchell Marsh followed two balls later for an inglorious duck and the slide was on. Again.
The Australians had fought so hard to extend the game into a fifth day, but they were totally overcome. No official trophies were exchanged as there isn’t one.
Within 24 hours Johannesburg will just about be Australian-free. The great exodus is on.
South Africa 488 and 6 dec 344.
Australia 221 and 119 (Burns 42, Handscomb 24. Philander 6/21, Morkel 2/28).
South Africa won by 492 runs.
Author: Ken Piesse
KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. He has written, edited and published more than 70 sports books. Signed copies of his latest cricket book Heroes of the Hour, cricket’s quintessential moments from Bradman and Lillee to Warne and Steve Smith, is available from www.cricketbooks.com.au