PERTH — South Africa ruined Ricky Ponting’s farewell with an emphatic 309-run victory over Australia in the third Test on Monday to clinch the three-match series 1-0 and cement their position at the top of the ICC test rankings.
Australia, 40/0 overnight, were bowled out for 322 in their second innings and never looked like getting anywhere near the victory target of 632 which would have allowed them to leapfrog the Proteas to return to the summit of the game.
Appropriately, it was the South African bowling unit that sealed the victory after finally firing in Perth to turn the series around with a devastating spell on the morning of day two at the Waca.
The hosts had had the better of day one as well as the drawn Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide but the South Africans struck back with a vengeance to become the first team since West Indies in the 1980s and 1990s to win consecutive series Down Under.
They got the best possible start to the day on Monday with two early wickets which brought 37-year-old Ponting to the crease for his 287th and final Test innings.
Ponting made a modest eight. Welcomed onto the field by a guard of honour of applauding South Africans, the 37-year-old lasted just 40 minutes and 23 balls before the same players were shaking his hand as he headed back to the pavilion.
Two fours, the first a vintage pull, closed his Test tally at 13,378 runs at an average of 51.85 from 168 matches — the second-highest run count in the long history of the game.
South African spinner Robin Peterson will go down in the record books as the last bowler to dismiss the batting great, tempting Ponting into an attempted cut which ended up as an edge into the hands of Jacques Kallis in the slips.
The former Australian captain took off his helmet and raised his arms to accept the applause of the crowd before departing the field where he made his Test debut 17 years ago.
South Africa began well in their quest to bring a swift conclusion to the hosts’ innings on Monday and secure successive series triumphs in Australia.
Opener Warner lasted just two deliveries in the bright morning sunshine before he edged the ball to Graeme Smith in the slips off the bowling of Vernon Philander.
Watson was the next to depart with Smith again taking the catch after Morne Morkel softened the all rounder up with some short bowling.
Ed Cowan outlasted Ponting and had just reached his half-century when he fell for 53, leaving Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey to try to build the sort of partnership they enjoyed when Australia were in the ascendancy in the first two Tests.
It was not to be as Clarke (44) was stumped charging down the wicket to Peterson (3/67) with Hussey (26) and Matthew Wade (10) soon following him back to the dressing room.
At the tea break, Australia were 204/7 with John Hastings (on two runs) and Mitchell Johnson (three) fighting a desperate rearguard action.
The tea break only delayed the departure of Johnson (three) and Hastings (20) but Mitchell Starc (68 not out) and Nathan Lyon wagged the tail with some vigour in a 10th wicket partnership of 87.
Starc showed his top order how things should have been done and claimed his maiden half-century in 32 balls, scoring nine fours and two sixes in a fluent innings before Lyon was caught by Smith off the bowling of Dale Steyn (3/72).