By Mat Larkin

If you stayed up last night to watch or
listen to the series-deciding one-day match between South Africa and
Australia, but went to bed at midnight content in the knowledge
that an unbelievable world-record Australian score of 4-434 had the series sewn
up then, like me, you may have woken
with a smile this morning, turned on your radio and choked.

Australia lost last night’s game and the one-day series to South
Africa, the locals scoring 9-438 to win. Spend a moment with this fact.
It won’t
help, but it’s worth a try.

Mark Boucher hit the winning runs from the
second-last ball of the match, setting off complete pandemonium among the
Johannesburg crowd, which had witnessed some of the best batting and worst
bowling in history.

It would be cruel to draw attention to,
say, Roger Telemachus’s ninth over, which generated 28 runs including
Australia’s 400th, or Mick Lewis’s world-worst figures of 0-113 from
ten overs, but I’m going to, because they was awful. It would have
taken the
best bowlers in the world to answer the onslaught from Australians Adam
Gilchrist (55), Simon Katich (79), Ricky Ponting (164 from 107 balls),
and
Michael Hussey (81 from 50), or Proteas Graeme Smith (90 from 55) and
Man-of-the-Match Herschelle Gibbs (175 from 111), and they weren’t on
the park
last night.

Ponting and Gibbs especially were each at
the top of their formidable games, with the Australian achieving his highest
limited-overs score and the South African smashing his country’s individual
high score as they picked up runs at will from a pitch resembling the
centre court at Melbourne Park.

It would be churlish, however, to blame the
pitch, or indeed the tiny boundaries at Wanderers. Australia
had 434 runs in the bank, and it simply should be impossible to lose a game
from there. Both teams will go into the first Test, beginning in Cape Town on
Thursday, with stronger bowling attacks, but Ponting and his men will also take
into it the most unlikely defeat imaginable. “We have to get over this quickly and
prepare for the Test series,” Ponting admitted. Good luck.

And oh, how the South Africans are loving
it
.

Peter Fray

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