January 7, 2009
"Tough times never last, tough people do."
This surmises the mentality of the South Africans during their tour down under. Led from the front by one of the world's toughest and outspoken captain, it never looked as though the Proteas were going to give it less than a hundred percent at any point of time during the series.
Less than a week after Tendulkar's heroics in Chennai, Absolutely Brilliant De Villiers showed great grit and courage to chase down a mammoth total of 414 at Perth. The foundation was laid by the captain himself, who scored a well-paced century. Equally impressive at the other end of De Villiers was young JP Duminy, who, at that point of time, would have had absolutely no idea on what was at store for him in the next test at Melbourne.
The Australians have had their share in holding dubious distinctions. They ended up in the losing side of the highest ever run chase in test cricket, when they succumbed to the West Indies at the Caribbean a few years back.
They became the first team to score over 400 runs in a limited overs game at Centurion, South Africa but again, ended up in the losing side when the Proteas chased down an impossible 434. Smith's quick fire 90 was followed by Herschelle Gibbs' blitzkrieg 175, but the game was far from over when he departed. The responsibility, once again, was laid in the shoulder of the old war-horse, Mark Boucher, who finished the game off in style.
Perth was a dress-rehearsal to what was witnessed in Melbourne. A ruthless nine wicket win for the South Africans, was powered by JP Duminy, whose 166 was compared to the innings played by a young Sachin Tendulkar at Sydney back in 1992. He was well supported by man-of-the-match Dale Steyn, who, apart from picking up five wickets in each innings, scored an arguably impressive 76 in the first innings. Ricky Ponting's 101 and 99 went in vain as he received little support from his team mates.
The third test at Sydney had only one talking point. After fracturing a finger in the first innings, and carrying an elbow injury that was expected to put Smith out of action for at least six weeks, in a test match that was surely out of reach for the South Africans to salvage a draw, brave Smith walked out into the pitch to join Makhaya Ntini. There were eight overs to battle, and much to the world's surprise, when all of us were absolutely certain Australia had won it, Smith walked in. That moment in time was enough for him to win millions of hearts.
An injury that made it really hard for him to even wear the batting gloves, the thought of facing the likes of Mitchell Johnson in a cracking last day Sydney pitch was a lesser thing to Smith than fighting for his country. His heroics went in vain as the Australians clinched it with ten balls to spare. But surely, Smith made sure that the lime light was certainly not on the victorious Aussies.
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