MELBOURNE: Ricky Ponting's Australia are now just one defeat away from losing their world number one crown after South Africa crushed them by nine wickets in the second Test to register their first ever series victory Down Under.
Having taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, South Africa will topple Australia from their top ranking if Graeme Smith's men can win the third and final Test in Sydney.
Resuming on 30 for no loss, South Africa needed 42 overs to score the remaining 153 runs for a memorable win and the moment came soon after lunch when Hashim Amla flicked Michael Clarke behind square leg for two runs.
In a match where Smith struck two fifties, JP Duminy scored his maiden hundred and Ponting scored 101 and 99, Dale Steyn was adjudged Man of the Match for his match haul of 10 for 154 besides the crucial 76 he scored in the first innings.
Graeme Smith was the lone South African wicket to fall in the second innings. The South African captain was trapped leg before by Nathan Hauritz after making a 94-ball 75 with 10 boundaries in it.
Fellow opener Neil McKenzie (59) and Amla (30) remained not out after guiding the team to a historic win.
Ponting, meanwhile, became the first Australian captain in 16 years to suffer a series defeat on home soil. Last time Australia lost a series at home was against the West Indies in 1992-93.
More than their bowling attack, Australia's slim chance of saving the match depended on rain.
Though there was slight drizzle in the morning, play started on schedule and South Africa could not be denied the win they thoroughly deserved.
Ponting once again ignored Mitchell Johnson despite the left-arm seamer being Australia's best bowler of the season so far. Instead, the Australia skipper relied more on Brett Lee and Peter Siddle.
Lee, who is set to undergo a foot surgery, looked in pain and hobbled.
Meanwhile, Matthew Hayden's nightmare continued and the Australian opener today dropped McKenzie in the first slip when the batsman was on 49.
"I have been smiling since the winning runs. It's incredible. It has been a team effort and when it's come to key moment in this Test we've stepped up," a beaming Smith later said.
"JP (Duminy) was incredible and the self belief in the team is flowing. It's an honour to come here and beat a quality unit. We're going to celebrate and enjoy our New Year and not many of us are thinking about Sydney . After all the hard work this year it's incredible to be standing here," Smith said.
His opposite number Ponting was graceful in defeat and he hinted there might be a few changes in the side for the Sydney Test.
"We deserved to be in this position and full marks to South Africa . They won very comfortably, a well deserved series win. Things were looking good for us at one stage, but their tail played exceptionally well and Lee went down through injury.
"We weren't able to convert our opportunities. Let's see what the selectors come up with for next week," Ponting said.
9 months ago