That’s why they are Number 1

2009-03-10 00:00

AUSTRALIA, stung into action by their home series loss to the Proteas, have been swift in exacting their revenge on Graeme Smith’s charges.

Yesterday’s 175-run victory sealed the three-match series for Ricky Ponting, and he was quick to laud the tour as one of his finest in baggy green.

“After the loss at home, most people expected us to be well beaten by a very good South African side,” he said.

“It’s really satisfying, especially with the number of new guys, to come here and play as well and as consistently as we have over the last two weeks.”

South Africa started yesterday hopeful of at least salvaging a draw, but the crucial first hour of the day was won by Australia.

Jacques Kallis, resuming on 84, was dropped by Michael Clarke on 88, but fell just five runs later as Mitchell Johnson again got the crucial breakthrough.

The writing was on the wall when AB de Villiers, who had moved hastily from 68 to 84, feathered another fine Peter Siddle delivery to Brad Haddin to leave the hosts tottering at 267 for four.

“We again let ourselves down in the first innings,” Proteas skipper Smith later observed.

“To score 370, on that deck, in the final innings showed what we can do, but we simply haven’t hit the standards we set in Australia,” he admitted.

JP Duminy (17) and Mark Boucher (25) briefly held up the Aussie charge, but a Ben Hilfenhaus snorter accounted for the classy Duminy, who was also caught behind.

Though it mattered little in the end, Paul Harris played a shocking shot off the part-time spin of Simon Katich in the over before lunch, and it was left to Siddle to complete a fine tumbling catch to have South Africa reeling at 307 for six.

“Siddle’s energy and whole-hearted approach typifies exactly what’s needed to wear the baggy green,” Ponting later explained.

“He has been bowling with a sore foot, but every time I throw him the ball he bowls his heart out for Australia.”

Katich may have added the scalps of Morne Morkel and the final wicket of Dale Steyn, but it was Siddle’s three key scalps that handed Australia the victory.

Smith acknowledged that the Aussie pace trio had created and sustained pressure on his side during the series, something that his side has failed to do.

“I thought that they bowled really well, and they didn’t allow our batters any chance to get away,” he said.

“It is disappointing for us because this group has been succesful together for quite some time, but this will hopefully be something we can reflect on and come back stronger from.”

Funnily enough, it was South Africa who were sailing along after the completion of the second Test in Melbourne at the end of 2008.

Fast forward a few exacting months and they again have to do without their captain, and they have their backs to the wall against a side that looks hungry for more success.

Interestingly, Ponting bluntly dismissed any significance to the apparent top Test ranking that had been hyped up ahead of the series.

“I knew about it because you guys had gone on about it, but that was never in our thinking.

“We play to win Test matches for Australia. Period. Anything else is just a sideshow, and if South Africa were worried about such trivia then I am not surprised that they haven’t played as well as they have shown they can.”

With that, Ponting has illustrated just how determined Australia will be to complete a whitewash at Newlands next week.

Despite a blip at home, they have emphatically justified their billing as the world’s best side. Even if it doesn’t matter to their captain.

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