Finest sides in the game

2009-03-23 00:00

AFTER six fascinating matches, nothing stands between Australia and South Africa. That today will be the only day of a possible 30 that missed out on play after the Proteas won by an innings and 20 runs at Newlands yesterday is testimony to the intensity with which both sides tackled each other.

The tourists were eventually bowled out for 422 in 121.5 overs in the dying overs yesterday.

For South Africa, a dropped catch here and a broken finger there may have made a difference, but that pales into insignificance when one looks back on the quality we have been treated to.

Indeed, this final instalment at Newlands was the only truly one-sided match, as South Africa consigned the Aussies to their first innings defeat in 11 years.

Paul Harris also had the significant honour of registering the first five-wicket haul by a Proteas spinner on South African soil since 1965.

He has had his critics, but the accurate left-armer snared six fine wickets (6/127), and with it the man of the match award.

"It's great to do it at Newlands, and even though I didn't know of the record, I am very proud of it," he reflected.

There was hardly a contest for the man of the series award.

Mitchell Johnson (123*) almost extended play to a final day, as his cavalier approach earned him the maiden Test century his talents so richly deserved.

Few in the modern game hit the ball cleaner than the Queenslander, and coupled with his devastating bowling, he is surely on his way to becoming one of the game's finest all-round practitioners.

"I got a bit nervous in the 90s when we lost those quick wickets, but it was fantastic to make the hundred," the beaming Johnson said.

South Africa's success was built on a magnificent first innings display, one that has been sadly missing on the home leg of their slug-out with the Aussies.

AB de Villers carried on where Kallis left off with a display of controlled hitting that was brilliantly brutal.

As Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis both admitted in the post-match interviews, the 3-3 scoreline after six matches is a true reflection of the two sides. They are undoubtedly the finest and most consistent sides in the modern game.

The best news any cricket lover will have received at the end of this thrilling series is the fact that these two giants of the game will now face each other on a yearly basis.

That can only be for the betterment of cricket, as we can all look forward to more momentous battles between the likes of Johnson and Kallis.

SCOREBOARD

Australia first innings 209

(S. Katich 55)

South Africa first innings 651

(A. Prince 150, J. Kallis 102, AB de Villiers 163, A. Morkel 58)

Australia second innings

P. Hughes c Kallis b Harris 32

S. Katich c Duminy b Harris 54

R. Ponting c Boucher b Steyn 12

M. Hussey c Duminy b Steyn 39

M. Clarke b Steyn 47

B. Haddin c Duminy b Harris 18

A. McDonald c de Villiers b Harris 68

M. Johnson not out 123

P. Siddle c de Villiers b Harris 0

B. McGain run out 0

B. Hilfenhaus c Prince b Harris 12

Extras 17

Total 422

Fall of wickets: 1-57 2-76 3-138 4-146 5-191 6-218 7-381 8-381 9-388

Bowling: Steyn 27-5-96-3 (1-nb, 1-w), Ntini 19-6-66-0, Morkel 20-1-88-0 (2-nb), Harris 42.5-9-127-6 (1-nb), Kallis 10-4-21-0, Duminy 3-1-14-0

Result: South Africa won by an innings and 20 runs.

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