South Africa completed an emphatic victory by 309 runs on the fourth day of the deciding Test against Australia at the WACA ground on Monday to win the series 1-0 and open up a six-point lead at the top of the ICC Test rankings.
Resuming at 40 without loss in pursuit of a huge 632 for the most unlikely of victories, the home side were dismissed for 322 an hour before the scheduled close of play when Dale Steyn had last man Nathan Lyon caught at slip by Graeme Smith.
Steyn (3-72) and Robin Peterson (3-127) led the way but Vernon Philander, who claimed 2-41 in 21 overs and Morne Morkel, with 2-57, were just as important during a concerted and focussed team bowling performance.
Philander dented Australia’s hopes with just the second ball of the day when dangerous opener David Warner (29) edged to Smith at slip, the first of what turned out to be a record five catches in the innings for the South African captain.
Smith pounced again to remove Shane Watson (25) off Morkel and Ricky Ponting became the third man to perish before lunch when a Peterson delivery turned and bounced unexpectedly to catch the former Australian captain’s edge providing Jacques Kallis with a sharp catch at slip. Ponting’s final Test innings ended on just eight and the match was well on its way to ending with the home side on 110-3 at lunch.
Opener Ed Cowan (53) instinctively hooked a Steyn bouncer to Dean Elgar at deep square leg and the two men who profited so handsomely in the first two Tests with a pair of double centuries and hundreds, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey, both departed before tea which was taken with the score on 204-7.
Clarke attempted to hit Peterson out of the attack but paid the price when AB de Villiers completed a smart stumping with the Australian captain on 44 and Hussey (26) provided De Villiers with another catch off Steyn.
A final wicket partnership of 88 between Mitchell Starc (68*) and Lyon (31) merely delayed the inevitable but there was no way back for the home side and the celebrations began in earnest once the formalities had been completed.
South Africa now enjoys a six-point lead at the top of the ICC Test rankings, the highest by any team in over four years. South Africa now joins England and the West Indies as the only teams to have won consecutive series in Australia. England did so over a hundred years ago and again between 1928 and 1933, the West Indies in the 1980s when they dominated world cricket.
“It’s hard to describe how satisfying this feels,” said Smith afterwards. “One win here seemed a very long way off when we lost 2-0 back in 2005, but now we have won twice. It’s incredible – every single one of the players can feel extremely proud of themselves.”