SA are wizards in Oz

2008-12-21 00:00

South Africa’s cricketers fashioned the greatest victory in their Test history as they defied massive odds to chase down a target of 414 in the first Test against Australia at the Waca in Perth yesterday.

The run chase is the highest ever on Australian soil and, in 131 years of Test cricket, is second only to the West Indies’ winning total of 418 for seven in St John’s to beat the touring Australians in 2003.

It was unquestionably South African cricket’s finest moment as they reached their mammoth target for the loss of only four wickets on the final day of the Test match.

The South Africans had been on the back foot for most of the previous four days. Trailing by 94 runs on the first innings, they fought resolutely, but the Australians, as captain Ricky Ponting admitted later, had every reason to believe they were safe when they set the Proteas a target of 414.

However, the South Africans, on the back of centuries by first Graeme Smith (108) on Saturday evening and then AB de Villiers (106 not out) yesterday, refused to buckle and they finally galloped home before tea yesterday.

De Villiers had strong support yesterday from Jacques Kallis (57), the only wicket to fall on the day, and then young Test debutant JP Duminy, who struck the winning runs to reach his half-century.

Captain Smith praised the commitment of his players and particularly the composure of the two 24-year-olds, De Villiers and Duminy.

“It was an incredible achievement to chase down 414 in the fourth innings and I’m over the moon. What was amazing was how two of our younger players dealt with the pressure. This effort epitomises the team commitment and the self-belief we have,” said Smith.

“The defining factor was the way the guys fought back … we can take a lot of confidence into the rest of the series. We want to come out strong at Melbourne and win the series. But for now this day, and tonight, is to be enjoyed.”

The Proteas will have been in good company last night with a reported 100 000 South Africans currently living in Perth.

De Villiers, named man of the match for his 63 in the first innings, his century in the second and his excellent catching, said the team were convinced they would chase down the target.

“We were always confident, but I only started feeling that the job was done after I reached my hundred. I enjoy batting with JP and we seem to complement each other,” De Villiers added.

Ponting praised the batting of De Villiers and the other South Africans.

“We thought we were in an excellent position at the start of the day, but we were badly outplayed. We have plenty to think about before the second Test.”

The only piece of bad news for South African cricket was the confirmation from Smith that he aggravated his elbow injury. He is to consult a specialist in Melbourne today, but added that he is determined to play in the second Test starting on Friday. Ashwell Prince will have his hand injury assessed today when the cast is removed, but Duminy showed yesterday that he is a most capable replacement.

Due to an ongoing dispute with the Australian Cricket Board, the major international news agencies — Reuters, Associated Press and AFP — provided no coverage of the Test and South Africa’s sensational win will not receive the exposure it really deserves.

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