Johannesburg - While Proteas captain Graeme Smith was disappointed to lose the second Test against Australia, he said the climax to the series was a great advertisement for Test cricket.
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“It was a big thumbs-up for Test cricket,” said Smith after Australia pulled off a thrilling victory, by two wickets, to level the two-Test series at the Wanderers on Monday.
“Even though we lost, I hope this series will be seen in a positive light.
“Both teams gave 100 per cent - it was not always pretty and not always as skilful as we’d have liked, but it was a big positive for Test cricket going forward.”
Chasing a daunting 310 for victory, Australia achieved the highest successful run chase at the Wanderers after the match had been finely poised when they resumed the last day on 142 for three.
The weather intervened and play only got underway after lunch when Australia lost both of their overnight batsmen fairly early in the session.
Prior to their second innings, Ricky Ponting, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson were out of form and their Test places were in jeopardy, but it was those three experienced players who came to the party when they were most needed, to steer Australia to victory.
Smith said South Africa had failed to cash in at times when they were ahead in the match and paid credit to Australia’s bowling attack and their stalwart batsmen.
“We had our opportunities but the Aussies kept coming back at us and we have to give them credit for the way they bowled,” Smith said.
“When we needed to put the knife in, we didn’t but we bowled well in the first session today before they came out after tea and took the game away from us.”
Ponting contributed 62 runs and Haddin 55, who had shared two half-century partnerships, with Michael Hussey and later with Johnson, at a time when the match could still have gone either way.
“People still look back at the Australian team of old but this team doesn’t get enough credit,” Smith said.
“Their players under pressure all stepped up today.
“Playing against Ricky Ponting is always daunting and he is certainly the most competitive cricketer I have ever played against. He’s a credit to Australian cricket.”
While he may have only taken one wicket in each innings, Johnson’s contribution with the bat was invaluable. His unbeaten 40 at the end proved to be the difference between the sides during their intense battle towards the finish line.
The winning runs were hit by teenager Pat Cummins, who was named man-of-the-match for his five-wicket haul on debut.
At 18, his six for 79 earned him the accolade of being the youngest bowler on debut and the youngest Australian to take five or more wickets in an innings.
Vernon Philander with five for 70, was named man-of-the-series for his two five-wicket hauls in successive matches after making his Test debut at Newlands in the first Test.
South Africa have not won a Test series at home since they beat Bangladesh in 2008 and have not beaten Australia in South Africa since 1970.
“We may not have won the last few series but we haven’t lost either and we know there are certain facets of the game where we need to improve,” said Smith.