Proteas crush Oz, take series 3-1
JOHANNESBURG: South Africa sealed the series by crushing Australia by 492 runs in the fourth and final test on Tuesday, a dire end for Australia to its most traumatic cricket tour in recent memory.
The result ranks as Australia's second-heaviest defeat by runs, their heaviest in 90 years, and the heaviest for any team in test cricket since 1934.
Failure for the Aussies at the Wanderers — where they had an outside chance of saving the series — was not surprising following the ball-tampering scandal that blew up in the third test in Cape Town.
It led to bans for the captain, vice-captain and a third key batsman, and prompted coach Darren Lehmann to say he was quitting. The moves haunted the remainder of the team for the week leading up to the last game.
The huge scale of the loss for Australia, from winning the opening match convincingly to losing the series 3-1, was telling.
Australia lost the last two tests by 322 runs and then an even more humiliating 492 runs, underlining how much morale disintegrated after the cheating scandal, and maybe how much of a challenge it's going to be to rebuild for a cricket team regarded as the best in the world over the last 30 years.
For years, Australia has been used to sending teams to historic defeats, not suffering them.
"Coming into the (last) test match, I certainly thought we were going to be a hell of a lot better than we have been," new captain Tim Paine said. "Obviously it (the ball-tampering episode) had more of an effect on guys than probably we knew ourselves.
"The opportunity to get home and take a breath and reset and start again might be refreshing to guys in the next couple of days. But certainly, at the moment, there's a fair bit of disappointment and borderline embarrassment in our change room."
Nevertheless, Paine said the Australians accepted an invitation from the South Africans to have a beer in the home team's dressing room next door, a chance for opponents to ease the tension of an ill-tempered monthlong series that was marred by numerous unsavory moments, not just the cheating scandal.
The only problem, Australia's rapid capitulation came early on the final morning. Not quite the normal drinking hours.
"An early beer, that's for sure," Paine sad. "It might be a coffee. But we'll go next door."
Australia was already headed for defeat at 88-3 at the start of the final day, needing a near-impossible total of 612 to level the series. Batting out for a draw would have been the most realistic target to save some pride, but Australia lasted barely an hour and just 16.4 overs of day five at the Wanderers.