|Hashim Amla - player of the match|
The game was even until Saturday afternoon, when Graeme Smith and Hamish Amla applied one day batting techniques to put the Australian second string bowlers under pressure. They wilted under the attack, 200 was put on in the final session and the game was over. The rest was just adjusting the stats.
The problems with how this series was conducted have been canvassed clearly enough (see Men of la Mancha) with most of it in the visitors favour. Much of Australia's game was first rate, even the bowling given the shirt front wickets that were prepared. The only hole in the batting lineup (Ponting 32 @ 6) has been self-repaired but there are still problems with a bowling attack that gets injured so easily and for such long periods. In the end, South Africa's batting was too deep and too good and even if the skeletons of Warne and McGrath had been drawn from the closet, Austtralia would have done no better (All The Questions Have Been Asked)
The over indulgence in the Ricky Ponting retirement during the Perth Test probably didn't cost Australia the match but it certainly didn't help. The players minds were not totally on the job in game and it showed. The cricket gods showed their hand and perhaps the current crop might remember now that the game is bigger than any of its players, even one as highly credentialed as Ponting. For all of the hoopla and appreciation of his contributions to Australian cricket - only some of which are accurate and not laced with hyperbole - it didn't raise his game and it didn't help his team mates.
|The most powerful moment of the series|
I did care much for him either.
That Smith would do such a thing for a man he had described "flinty and hard and the toughest man I played cricket against" was the highest honour expressed over the four days in Perth and it was completely appropriate that Ponting's highest accolade should happen right in his workplace. When Ponting left, Smith and his senior men ran to catch up with him and shake his hand, slap his back and send him off with their appreciation of his gifts and contributions.
Cricket the leveller. The game knows Ponting would have done no such thing if he had been in Smith's position but it happened anyway, reminding us all that the genuine good of the game isn't in statistics and blinding ability. It lies in relationships. It lies in the quality of the struggle, not the ferocity. It lies in humility, whether in victory or defeat. Just like life, its the journey that is the point, not the destination.
|Left at the top of their game|
He left in Perth, scoring 4 and 8, his regular off stump woes of the last three years dogging him again.
In ten days, none of this will matter.
Australia starts a three Test series against Sri Lanka in Hobart on December 14th.