Lee, Kasper earn redemption as Aussies win

Published: Wednesday, April 5, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg:Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz earned redemption for an Ashes-defining failure when they took Australia to a tense two-wicket win on the fifth day of the third and final Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium.

Last August, Lee and Kasprowicz put on 59 for the last wicket in the second Test against England in Birmingham, only for Kasprowicz to be dismissed to give England a two-run win. The result levelled a series which England went on to win.

Tuesday, they were effectively the last pair again - although injured opener Justin Langer defied doctor's orders and put on the pads with about ten runs needed.

This time they got Australia home with an unbeaten 19-run stand to complete a 3-0 series sweep - the first by an Australian team in South Africa.

"It was a bit of justice after what happened in England," said Australian captain Ricky Ponting.

"It was almost exactly the same situation. I know how much it hurt those guys that day. We sat down after that game and we all basically said to them how proud we were of what they had done, although we didn't get across the line. It was unbelievably difficult conditions for batting out there."

Australia started the day needing 44 to win with six wickets down. The second new ball was taken after two runs had been added, nine balls into the day.

Damien Martyn completed his 13th Test century but was leg before wicket to Shaun Pollock for 101 four balls later, with 34 still needed. Stuart Clark hit two fours off Makhaya Ntini but then top-edged a catch to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, bringing Kasprowicz to the crease.

Lee and Kasprowicz both batted confidently as they neared the target, with Lee hitting Pollock through the covers for four and Kasprowicz doing the same to Ntini before Lee hit the winning runs, cracking Pollock square on the off-side for four.

Man-of-the-match Lee, who took three wickets in each innings and scored 64 in the first innings, made 24 not out.

Langer, who suffered concussion when struck by a ball from Ntini Saturday, told his teammates before play that he wouldn't be able to bat.

"But when it got to about ten runs to win Justin took it on himself to put the pads on," said Ponting. "But he was probably only ever going to go out if he could stand at the non-striker's end. We couldn't risk him having to face any deliveries in the game.

"Medically over the last couple of days his situation hadn't changed. It was going to take me and probably a few other blokes to keep him in the dressing room. To tell the truth I don't know what I would have done if it had come down to that. I probably would have had to declare."

It was Australia's fifth successive win over South Africa, after the first match of a three-Test series in Australia earlier this season was drawn.

"The Test cricket we've played over the last few weeks has been of a very high standard," said Ponting.

"It's fair to say we dominated the first two Test matches and held our own in this one with a batsman and a bowler (Kasprowicz) down for the majority of the game."

South African captain Jacques Kallis said it had been a big blow not to be able to call on fast bowler Andre Nel during the final innings because of illness.

"But we arrived this morning really believing we could win it. They played aggressively and it paid off."

Kallis insisted the South African team was moving forward.

"We've made strides. We're a long way behind Australia but the results aren't a true reflection," he said.

Ponting said South Africa had been competitive at some stages during the two series. "Some of the Test matches have been closely fought but I'm not sure South Africa have got into too many winning situations. We've been the ones that have dictated the Test matches."

Seam bowler Stuart Clark, who made his debut in the first Test at the age of 30, was named man of the series after taking 20 wickets at an average of 15.85.

"He's been like a Glenn McGrath, but five years younger," said Ponting.

"Sure, there have been conditions that have suited the seamers but he and Brett Lee have done everything that could have been asked of them.

"They've led the team in the bowling attack unbelievably well. Stewie has been a great find."

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