The third Test between South Africa and Australia came to a close today, with Australia snatching the win in a thrilling contest that went right to the wire.
The Aussies started the Test with a fantastic batting display, and the fact that the final day was still this exciting speaks volumes to the defiance and grit showed by the Proteas. Cricket-blogger Fake IPL Player said it best: This was Test cricket at its finest.
These were the top performers from Day 5:
Ryan Harris, Australia
Simply put, Harris was phenomenal. Playing on surgically repaired knees, the veteran fast-bowler only gave up 32 runs in 24.3 overs, recording 15 maidens and taking four wickets. It was a magnificent performance, saving the Australians in the end. Harris deserves all the praise in the world:
His catching of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel finished the job for the Australians for a victory that was long overdue.
Vernon Philander, South Africa
Philander was the only South African batsmen not to fall on the day, scoring 51 runs on 105 ball and adding a six and six fours in his team's second innings.
For a moment it looked like Mitchell Johnson had taken his wicket and the South Africans would be in even more trouble, but Philander reviewed and came away with a favourable (and somewhat controversial) decision.
Along with AB De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis, Philander kept South Africa's hopes alive for as long as he could.
Nathan Lyon, Australia
Harris wasn't the only Australian bowler that put together a fine performance. Bowling 22 overs, Lyon scored 17 maidens and only surrendered 10 runs, finishing with an excellent economy rate of 0.45.
While the off-spring bowler didn't take any wickets, he did an excellent job of protecting the Australians' lead, giving Harris the opportunity of taking some chances.
Graeme Smith, South Africa
No, Smith did not enjoy a particularly good output in his final innings for South Africa. With only three runs and three balls, his batting for the team lasted all of 16 minutes. His numbers for the entire series weren't much better, with just 45 total runs scored.
Congrats once again to @GraemeSmith49 on your career. To take over as a 22 year old, just a captain after Cronje, was unbelievable.— Alternative Cricket (@AltCricket) March 5, 2014
But here are some other numbers for you: 277. Or maybe 259. Or almost eight years.
That's how long South Africa had been undefeated in Test series. With Smith as their captain, his unorthodox bat at the helm.
Graeme Smith - a leader, a legend. The fight SA showed today epitomized his career and captaincy. #FarewellBiff— Day Five (@DayFive1) March 5, 2014
Smith is a legend of the game, and he will be missed by teammates and fans all over the world equally. The Australian Guard of Honor was more than just well-deserved.
Perhaps his magnificent career deserved a better ending. Or perhaps this ending is exactly the reason Smith decided the time to walk away is now.
Regardless, the sport of cricket is losing one of its greatest sons and South Africa is losing its greatest captain. And that might be even worse than losing this series.