Australia apply Ashes lessons to beat Proteas

Published: Wednesday, March 29, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Durban:Australian captain Ricky Ponting said lessons learned in last year's Ashes defeat in England had contributed to an emphatic series win in South Africa in the side's first overseas tour since then.

Australia overcame stubborn lower order resistance and the threat of a stoppage for bad light when they won the second Test against South Africa by 112 runs at Kingsmead Tuesday.

After winning the first Test in Cape Town, it meant they became the third successive Australian touring team to seal a series win in South Africa with a match still to play.

Ponting, who was not on the field Tuesday because of food poisoning, said: "It was a great result and a lot of hard work. There's lots of emotion in the dressing room, it's a great series win for us."

He said there had been some hard thinking after the Ashes loss.

"We've looked at ourselves and looked at the team. We've identified areas where we can improve. We've got more coaching staff in place and we feel we're better prepared now for Test matches than we were before.

"More importantly we've got players putting their hands up, which was maybe lacking a bit in the Ashes."

Ponting said the cricket played by Australia in both Tests and one-day games since England had been of "the highest calibre".

South African captain Graeme Smith admitted his team had been outplayed.

"They've been better than us in the Test form of the game in a lot of key departments and key moments. They're the best team in the world and they've proved it to us."

Smith admitted the cumulative effect of playing Australia over an extended period on home-and-away tours had been a factor.

"To play someone for four or five months definitely takes its toll, it's like Groundhog Day sometimes," he said referring to a movie where the main character repeatedly finds himself in the same situation.

Leg-spinner Shane Warne made the crucial breakthroughs, taking the first three and the last two wickets to finish with six for 86.

A 91-run opening stand between AB de Villiers and Smith gave South Africa hope of saving the match and taking the series to the third and final Test which starts in Johannesburg Friday.

But Warne took three wickets in quick succession and South Africa were four down at lunch.

"He was the difference," said Smith. "He got the key wickets and they wouldn't have got through to the end without a world-class spinner. With the lights on, he was able to make a difference."

South Africa looked down when the seventh wicket fell before tea but Mark Boucher batted defiantly for 223 minutes to score an unbeaten 51 and found stubborn partners in Nicky Boje and Andre Nel as South Africa took the match into the last half hour, with only 7.1 overs to be bowled.

The umpires consulted several times and the floodlights were switched on more than an hour before the end. At one stage, fast bowler Brett Lee was taken off after he had already gone to the end of his run-up.

Warne and Andrew Symonds finished the match bowling spin, with nine fielders clustered around the bat for the last two batsmen, Nel and Makhaya Ntini.

Both Smith and Ponting felt that playing Test matches under floodlights was not ideal.

"It is so artificial. There's a different shine coming off the red ball," said Ponting.

Smith refused to comment on whether he thought play should have been called off because of the light.

"What I feel and what I am allowed to say are two different things," he said.

Asked to comment on the general issue of playing under lights he said: "It is tough. You could see the glare on the ball there tonight. At some point they (the umpires) have to judge whether it's a day-night game or a Test match."

Before Warne came into the attack in the 18th over of the day, South Africa seemed to have a reasonable chance of saving the match.

De Villiers (46) and captain Smith (40) put together South Africa's best opening partnership in five Tests against Australia this summer before Warne struck twice in ten balls.

The pair were looking comfortable when acting captain Adam Gilchrist brought Warne on. De Villiers stretched forward to Warne's fourth ball, lost his balance and Gilchrist made a smart stumping.

Warne made a second breakthrough when Smith played a sweep shot and the ball looped to Justin Langer at leg slip. Smith was given out by umpire Steve Bucknor although replays suggested the ball had come off his left forearm.

Warne had first innings century-maker Jacques Kallis leg before when Kallis missed a sweep and in the next over he held a simple catch at first slip when a lifting delivery from Stuart Clark was deflected off the splice of Gibbs' bat.

Vice-captain Gilchrist led Australia in the field in the absence of Ponting.


South Africa, second innings (overnight 29-0)

Falls: 1-91, 2-98, 3-122, 4-122, 5-146, 6-170, 7-181, 8-253, 9-292

Result: Australia won by 112 runs.

Australia take unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

Remaining match: Johannesburg, March 31-April 4.

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