Proteas win second Test, Australia lose home series after 15 years

December 30th, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, Dec 30 (IANS) Australia’s domination of world cricket seems to be nearing the end as they lost their first home series since 1992-93, following South Africa’s nine-wicket win in the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground here Tuesday to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match rubber. Graeme Smith hit a cool 75 while Neil Mckenzie made an unbeaten 59 as South Africa reached the winning target of 183 just 55 minutes after lunch on the final day, losing only one wicket on the way.

The visitors can snatch the top ranking from Ricky Ponting’s side if they sweep the series 3-0 with victory in the Sydney Test starting Saturday.

The main architect of South Africa’s first series win Down Under was fast bowler Dale Steyn, who was adjudged the Man of the Match for his match haul of 10 wickets.

Steyn also scored a valuable 76 and along with Jean Paul Duminy (166) helped South Africa make a stunning comeback to score 459 in the first innings in reply to Australia’s 394. The fast bowler then wrecked the Australian batting in the second innings with 5-67 as the home side crumbled to 247 to take an overall lead of 182 runs.

Rain on the last day was Australia’s only hope to keep their chances of levelling the series in Sydney alive, but despite some drizzle early in the morning play started on time. Resuming at the overnight 30 for no loss, Smith continued his attacking strokeplay as the bowling attack led by an injured Brett Lee wilted with time.

Lee, who has been ordered to rest for six weeks after this match because of a stress fracture on his left foot, bravely opened the Australian bowling but lacked penetration and ended up conceding 49 runs from 10 overs. He left the field half an hour before the game ended.

Ponting relied more on Lee and novice Peter Siddle on the fifth morning by ignoring the in-form Mitchell Johnson. And when Johnson came on to bowl there was little he could do against Smith who was on song. Johnson gave away 36 runs from his 11 overs.

Smith belted 10 fours from 94 balls and was trapped leg before the wicket by off-spinner Nathan Hauritz shortly before lunch after the opening stand with McKenzie yielded 121 runs. Hashim Amla (30 not out) and McKenzie then took South Africa home.

For Australia, the loss was not just an indication of the decline of their strength at home, but also the transition the team is going through due to the loss of some great cricketers, who played a crucial role in their dominance of world cricket for over a decade.

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