OUT classed

2009-04-03 00:00

A 141-run hiding was hardly the start Graeme Smith envisaged on his return to the Proteas, but that is exactly what he received as Australia’s thorough performance was met by a spineless display by South Africa at Kingsmead last night.

Ricky Ponting’s decision to bat paid rich dividends, as the Aussies kept at it despite losing regular wickets before Mike Hussey hit the accelerator with some style.

Hussey, who returned to form after his first dip in international cricket, grew in confidence to end on a high-class 83 not out off 79 balls to see his side reach a formidable 286 for 7.

“I’ve been out of touch for a while, but it’s nice to get back in the runs and hopefully the slump is over,” the man known as Mr Cricket said when collecting his man-of-the-match award.

Ponting admitted that 286 was probably an over-achievement, especially as the pitch slowed down in the evening, but he had his bowlers to thank for a comprehensive win.

The skipper himself (37) and Brad Haddin (53) had steadied the Australian innings after Makhaya Ntini removed Michael Clarke cheaply.

The mindless run-outs of Haddin and David Hussey almost derailed the Aussies, but Hussey senior found allies in Callum Ferguson and James Hopes (38) to finish the innings with a flourish.

Hashim Amla fell quickly for the home side, but Smith and Herschelle Gibbs seemed well on course as they rattled up 74 in even time. Gibbs (33) then sliced Hopes to Clarke at point, before the introduction of Nathan Hauritz changed the course of the match.

“Nathan bowled outstandingly for us, and we are looking forward to more from him during the series,” Ponting said.

Hauritz, finding turn away from the left-handers, accounted for Smith, while restricting an out of sorts JP Duminy to a succession of ambitious sweep strokes.

Mark Boucher’s woeful attempt at a paddle sweep summed up South Africa’s night, and from there the chase quickly unravelled.

From 91 for one, South Africa were eventually bowled out for 145, with nearly 17 overs still left in the innings.

“We have been outplayed in all departments,” was Smith’s rather obvious assessment. “It doesn’t suddenly make us a bad side, but we have a lot to think about before Centurion [tomorrow].”

From the highs of the Pro20 Series, the Proteas have landed with a significant bump, and changes for tomorrow’s second clash are a distinct probability.

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