South Africa secured a memorable 1-0 away series victory over Australia after winning the third and final test by a massive 309 runs with a day to spare in Perth on Monday. The victory confirmed the Proteas' position as the number one test team in world cricket.
Only a stubborn, hard-hitting last wicket partnership of 87 runs by Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon prevented a much bigger defeat for the Aussies.
Starc took his chances and finished with an unbeaten 68 off 43 balls, while Lyon ended with 31 off 43 as Australia advanced from 235 for 9 to 322 all out in their second innings.
Proteas captain Graeme Smith said in a post-match interview: "I thought the guys showed tremendous ability and character over the past 10 days, two weeks. In Adelaide [in the second test], we were right up against it. To fight as hard as we did, to get that draw, was big, and the way we turned it around for the series win here in Australia was special."
'It means the world to us'
Smith added: "To win a series here takes a lot of effort, and it's something that means the world to us. We know how tough it has been, and to have won two series here means the world to us."
Australia's captain Michael Clarke, with two double-centuries and 577 runs, more than anyone else on either team, was named man of the series. He said he would have chosen a series win over the individual accolade.
"I don't want to take anything away from South Africa," he added. "We were outplayed in this test match. I think they fought really hard and showed what the number one team in the world has to do to be number one throughout this series."
The match was notable for the fact that it brought the curtain down on the 168-test match career of Ricky Ponting. When he went in to bat in Australia's second innings, he was met at the pitch by an honour guard made up of South Africa's players.
'An amazing journey'
"It's been an amazing journey over a long period of time," Ponting reflected afterwards.
Questioned about career highlights, he said one that ranked highly was a series victory over South Africa in South Africa in early 2009 with a young team, after the Proteas had beaten Australia in Australia.
South Africa's win in Perth was built around an excellent 78 not out by Faf du Plessis, which helped the Proteas to 225 all out in their first innings after they had been reduced to 75 for 6.
The bowlers, with Dale Steyn to the fore, then did their bit, running through the Australian batting order and dismissing them for only 164. Steyn picked up 4 for 40 and Robin Peterson, in the team in place of an out-of-form Imran Tahir, snared 3 for 44.
A remarkable job
The second time they batted, the South Africa batsmen did a remarkable job, scoring at over five runs an over as they took the contest to the Australians. When their total reached 425 for 3, they had taken just 13 overs more than they did in their first innings to reach 225.
Man of the match Hashim Amla led the way with 196 off only 221 balls. AB de Villiers shone with 169 off 184 deliveries, and Graeme Smith cracked 84 off of 100 as South Africa tallied 569 all out, leaving Australia needing an imposing 632 to win.
It was only the fourth instance in test history of a team scoring over 500 runs and batting at more than five runs an over.
'You want to score runs in a winning cause'
"I'm just glad that I was able to make a contribution. Obviously you want to score runs in a winning cause. The bowlers did an amazing job today to wrap it up," Amla commented when he received his man of the match award.
The Australians began day four on 40 without loss, needing to bat out two days to draw, but they lost all 10 wickets on the day as they fell for 322.
Steyn picked up three wickets to take his record to 299 wickets in tests, while Peterson, although he came in for a bit of stick at the end, added another three wickets to his first innings' haul.
It was a remarkably huge win for Graeme Smith and company, who had been thoroughly tested by the Australians in the first two tests.
While the Proteas opened the first test with 450 runs and centuries from Amla and Kallis, Australia still managed a first innings lead of 115 after captain Michael Clarke hit 259 and Ed Cowan a maiden test century of 136. It took a dogged second innings to secure the draw for the Proteas.
In the second test, minus JP Duminy, out with an Achilles injury that required an operation, and Vernon Philander, a late scratch because of a stiff back, South Africa staged a superb fight-back to prevent an Australian victory.
With Clarke contributing 230, Australia posted 550 all out to lead by 162 on the first innings.
Jacques Kallis was injured while bowling and could not bowl any further after sending down only 3.3 overs. SA skipper Smith weighed in with 122 in South Africa's innings of 388, and Faf du Plessis, Duminy's replacement, scored 78 on debut.
After Australia declared their second innings on 267 for 8, South Africa needed 429 for victory. When they slipped to 45 for 4, they looked to be in huge trouble.
They began the final day on 77 for 4, needing to bat it out, and Du Plessis again delivered, finishing undefeated on 110. AB de Villiers, with an uncharacteristic but determined 33 off 220 balls, lent good support, and Kallis, despite struggling with his hamstring injury, made 47 batting at number seven as the test was saved. Du Plessis was named man of the match on debut.
Then came the match in Perth, the scene of a magnificent victory when South Africa last toured Australia in 2008, in which they scored 414 for 4 in the second innings to take 1-0 series lead on their way to 2-1 series win. Once again, it proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Proteas.
After scoring 196 in South Africa's second innings, Hashim Amla was named man of the match in a 309-run victory by the Proteas over Australia in Perth.