SA cricket: Captain courageous shows true grit as SA come close

2009-01-07 00:00

A gallant lower-order fightback by the Proteas fell 10 agonising deliveries short of denying Australia a morale-boosting victory in the third and final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday.

The incomparable Graeme Smith, with a broken hand and a debilitating elbow injury, strode out with eight overs left, determined to thwart Australia again.

Seemingly dead at 190 for seven, the tail wagged profusely in an effort to provide this epic series with one late, dramatic twist.

Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn defied an increasingly desperate home attack for over an hour, before Steyn eventually departed.

Smith received a hero’s welcome, the SCG crowd recognising the huge risk that he was taking.

Defying medical opinion, the SA skipper jabbed and winced his side ever closer, with an icreasingly cavalier Ntini at the other end.

With just 10 balls to go, however, Johnson got one to slip through Smith’s limited defences and knock back the middle stump.

That Australia won by 103 runs hardly tells the story of a riveting final day in Sydney. The crowd, and indeed the Australian team, stood back and acknowledged Smith’s immense contribution to a match and a series that has re-energised Test match cricket.

Fittingly, Smith was named Man of the series as testimony to his creative leadership, fine catching and inspired batting. The return series, starting in late February, cannot come soon enough.

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