Having performed so wonderfully well at Centurion, Australia would have been disappointed that they couldn’t clinch the series at Port Elizabeth. Of course, South Africa were expected to fight back since they are after all the number one Test side in the world. Even so, Australia will know deep inside that they could have performed a lot better, and that they themselves contributed to their downfall with some poor performances. When they look back at their efforts, they would candidly admit that there is much scope for improvement in the decider.
Australia’s batting was the major cause of their downfall at Port Elizabeth. Although the bowlers conceded 423 as the Aussies took first strike, it isn’t a match-winning score in today’s times. Australia needed to show a lot more resolve while batting, but not a single batsman got close to a century, which put the visitors on the back foot, leaving them with little chance of winning the Test. David Warner was the only batsman who showed some resistance with his half-century, but with no support, his knock wasn’t of much significance. Steven Smith did get close to a half-century, but Australia had fallen way behind by the time he came in to bat.
Although the Australians were chasing a mammoth target to win the Test, yet again they could have done a lot better with the bat, especially after they got off to a brilliant start. Whatever the situation or the conditions, losing 10 wickets for 96 runs cannot be accepted by any side. Warner and Chris Rogers batted magnificently to put up 126 on the board chasing the big total. It wouldn’t have guaranteed an Australian victory under any conditions, but at least they would have lived to fight another day had they survived the fourth day.
The forecast for the final day was not too good, and had Australia showed better resistance they might even have escaped with a draw, Ifs and buts don’t count in cricket though. The fact of the matter was that Australia were extremely poor with the bat in the final session of day four. No matter how brilliantly South Africa bowled, they should never have lost 10 wickets in the manner that they did. Rogers’s hundred and Warner’s second fifty of the gave deserved better results, if not an improbable victory, then at least a hard-fought draw.
Australia’s bowling was decent, but the manner in which South Africa handed Mitchell Johnson was most impressive. Of course, the pitch did not have as much life as Centurion, but the South Africans proved that if they keep Johnson at bay, the Aussie attack can be thwarted. Johnson picked up just three wickets in the match. The left-arm seamer is only human, and he was bound to have an off-game. Crucially, South Africa pounced on the same and made best use of the rare opportunity. --By A Cricket Analyst