THERE were scenes of wild celebration as South Africa’s bowlers engineered a dramatic 231-run victory over Australia in the second cricket test at Axxess St George’s early yesterday evening.
Spurred on by a vociferous crowd, part-time spinner Dean Elgar claimed the final wicket of the test, that of Nathan Lyon, with only two balls remaining in the prolonged day.
With rain forecast for most of what would have been the final day today, the last wicket came in the nick of time for the home side as they squared the series at 1-1 heading into the third and final test starting in Cape Town on Saturday.
Setting up the dramatic finale, the umpires decided at 6pm, with the Aussies seven wickets down, that a result could be achieved and an extra 30 minutes were added.
And that half-hour was all it took for the South Africans to wipe out any bad memories they may have harboured following their crushing defeat at Centurion in the first test.
South African captain Graeme Smith was understandably thrilled.
“I think the week building up was a tough one for us. We needed to be smart, we needed to be clinical. We needed to have good ideas of how to respond.
“I don’t think many teams would have been able to respond from a defeat like we faced in Pretoria.
“I’ve seen some terrific victories from this team, but nine wickets in a session is really something special.”
Asked if he had kept one eye on the weather, Smith said: “You can’t guess, you know.
“You need to go on what you think is the right thing to do.
“I still believe that there would have been enough time [today] to get at least two sessions of play in based on the information I had been given – and we know some weathermen pretty high up,” he said smiling.
The day had gone superbly, Smith said.
Aussie captain Michael Clarke heaped praise on South Africa. “I think they deserve a lot of credit. We were outplayed with both bat and ball throughout this test match, and they played extremely well.
“I think you’ve seen a class spell of reverse swing bowling today from all three of the South African fast bowlers and certainly Dale Steyn.
“South Africa showed us how to get the ball reversing. We didn’t get one ball to reverse in both innings so we can learn from that.
“And like I say, you’ve seen a class bowler bowling at 140- 145km/h and executing his skills as well as you’ll see in any international cricket. So Dale Steyn deserves a lot of credit.”
Steyn took four wickets.
The atmosphere was festive at St George’s yesterday as attendance figures rose to about 24000 for the four days.
The crowd sang and danced in anticipation of a home victory, thanks to an unbeaten second-innings century from Hashim Amla.
The Australians fought back tenaciously, but wickets fell at regular intervals as the tourists crumbled under pressure from the South African seamers, who were a man down with the groin injury to Wayne Parnell.
Smith declared South Africa’s second innings on 270 for five, 43 minutes before lunch, leaving the Australians with the massive task of scoring 448 to win the series. In the end, the Aussies were out for only 216.
Smith also revealed at the post-match presentation that St George’s Park was set to regain the Boxing Day test.
If this is confirmed, it will be the ground’s first Boxing Day test since 2007, when it hosted the West Indies in a match the visitors won. The West Indies are scheduled to tour over the Christmas period this year.