Australia pulled off a thrilling victory on Day 5 of the Cape Town Test, beating South Africa with just 27 balls left in the day.
South Africa were dogged and defiant, and looked like saving the series with their rearguard action. But Ryan Harris struck twice with full deliveries to account for Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, and with it sealed the series 2-1 for the visitors.
The margin of victory, 245 runs, did not tell the story of how close the Proteas came to pulling off a draw, but in truth, Australia had dominated the Test and deserved to come away victorious.
Only Test cricket can throw up these circumstances. This is unparalleled sporting theatre. #SAvAus— Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) March 5, 2014
South Africa had just six wickets in hand and a day to survive, but with AB de Villiers still at the crease the Proteas still had cause for optimism.
De Villiers had been instrumental in some famous fourth-inning rearguards and chases, and blocked his way stoically throughout the morning session.
At the other end, Kyle Abbott stuck around until James Pattinson deceived him with a reverse-swinging ball that the batsman left.
But thereafter, Faf du Plessis, the man who defied Australia in similar circumstances in Adelaide with a 376-ball 110, took to the middle and settled in.
|South Africa 2nd Innings||(1st Inns 287)||Australia 494-7 dec. & 303-5 dec.|
|Smith||c Doolan||b Johnson||3||18||3|
|AB de Villiers||c Haddin||b Harris||43||321||228|
|du Plessis||lbw||b Smith||47||156||109|
|Duminy||c Lyon||b Johnson||43||157||99|
|M Morkel||b Harris||0||2|
|Extras||5nb 2w 8b 5lb||20|
|Total||all out||265||(134.3 ovs)|
The fact that the wicket was playing well and Australia were resorting to spin in the final overs before lunch gave the Proteas hope.
Ryan Harris drew De Villiers' edge just after lunch with a superb delivery, ending his 228-ball vigil and opening the door once more for the Baggy Greens.
The tension built as the day wore on. Every South African showed resistance, but Australia continued to chip away and take wickets.
Du Plessis was beaten by Steve Smith's leg spin for 47 while JP Duminy lasted 99 balls for his 43.
Each partnership restored optimism bit by bit, each wicket saw it evaporate.
Meanwhile, tempers flared as the Australians struggled to get the wickets they required.
It spilled over when Mitchell Johnson thought he'd taken the wicket of Vernon Philander to leave South Africa 259-9. Philander reviewed, seemingly out of hope rather than expectation, and the television umpire determined that he had taken one hand off the bat at the point the ball struck him and could not be given out.
It was controversial, and Australia were apoplectic.
Robbie P holds Steyn back during the tense drinks break. pic.twitter.com/BCyouJTceX— Cricket365 (@Cricket365) March 5, 2014
The match went into the final hour with two wickets required. Seven overs came and went before Michael Clarke rolled the dice and threw the ball to Johnson for one hostile barrage of pace bowling.
Ball by ball, the end drew into sight. But Harris arrived, and had the final say.