Friday, 7 March 2014, 07:13am
Last-gasp Oz ruin Smith's farewell
The tourists came into the final day needing just six wickets to claim victory but the Proteas dug in and frustrated them with Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn putting on 19 runs in 15 overs for the ninth-wicket to guide the hosts towards an unlikely draw.
But when Steyn fell to Ryan Harris with just 29 balls left in the day, Morne Morkel followed two balls later to leave Philander stranded on 51 and see Australia to a 2-1 series victory.
It was a sad exit for departing South Africa captain Graeme Smith who announced earlier in the week that he would end his international career after this Test.
AB de Villiers had taken 100 balls to reach his overnight 16 and, as expected, the pace did not pick up as South Africa began the attempt to guide themselves towards the draw in chase of 511.
Just eight runs came off the bat in the first 10 overs of the day along with four leg-byes off a Harris delivery which appeared to have De Villiers in a spot of bother on the pull before he glanced it off his shoulders.
Both De Villiers and Kyle Abbott broke the shackles briefly with boundaries but they merely punctuated spells of three and five consecutive maidens as the hosts crawled their way through the morning.
Eventually, Australia's persistence paid off as James Pattinson got Abbott with an absolute beauty. The ball pitched on a good length and then nipped back to clip the top of off stump to remove the nightwatchman for seven from 89 balls.
Abbott had certainly done his job to soak up time and Australia may have been looking back to 2012 when Faf du Plessis strode to the crease.
It was Du Plessis who batted out the entire fifth day at Adelaide on his Test debut to secure the unlikeliest of draws for the Proteas and similar heroics were required once more.
He and De Villiers proceeded to see South Africa safely through the 13.5 overs until lunch with the minimum of fuss and the tourists took the new ball straight after the interval.
The presence of two specialist batsmen at the crease clearly gave the Proteas more freedom as they claimed three boundaries in the first four overs after lunch but it wasn't long before De Villiers succumbed to Harris.
The seamer had been hitting the right line and length since the break and eventually found the edge of De Villiers' bat as he nicked one behind.
It was the first time in 13 Tests that the batsman had not recorded a 50 but his 43 had taken up nearly five-and-a-half hours and 228 valuable deliveries to help his team to 136 for six.
The loss of the elder statesman once again slowed the run rate but the Proteas were digging in well with their middle-order pair carefully selecting the odd boundary.
Du Plessis and JP Duminy put on 37 for the seventh wicket before Steve Smith removed the former with the first ball of his fresh spell as t he ball pitched on leg and hit the batsman plumb in front.
Du Plessis reviewed the decision but it looked to be more in hope than expectation as he exited for 47.
That brought Philander to the crease and he immediately set about upping the run rate, hitting the first six of the innings off Mitchell Johnson.
Duminy began to find the boundary with more regularity and the pair brought up their 50 partnership in just 63 balls.
The duo had put on 73 when some smart captaincy by Michael Clarke brought about the end of Duminy for 43.
Nathan Lyon was positioned at a fine leg-slip and when Johnson got one the cut across the batsman, Duminy's attempts to steer the ball round the corner went straight into the hands of the spinner.
That left the hosts 246 for eight and controversy was to follow just four overs later as a brute of a ball from Johnson clattered into Philander who was caught at short leg with Aleem Dar adjudging the tailender to be out.
But the decision was overturned after a lengthy review with the third umpire seemingly deciding that Philander's glove was not on his bat when the ball hit his thumb.
When Philander brought up his 50 from 95 balls with a four, he and Dale Steyn needed to ride out just 7.4 overs to complete their great escape and seal a series draw.
They survived two of them before Steyn (one) was gone to a brilliant yorker from Harris which brushed off stump and two balls later the veteran bowled Morkel to break South African hearts.
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Vernon Philander's unbeaten 50 could not save South Africa