Shamik Das

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Smith hails South Africa's Annus Mirabilis as rainbow gladiators slay ghosts of cricket past

Captain fantastic: Graeme Smith revels in South Africa's stunning win in Melbourne    Man of the year: Dale Steyn roars his delight after taking his 74th and final wicket of 2008

Melbourne, second Test, fifth day: South Africa 183/1 (Smith 75, McKenzie 59*, Amla 30*) and 459 beat Australia 394 & 247 by nine wickets

GRAEME SMITH spoke of a shift in power following South Africa's historic series win in Australia today, describing 2008 as the Proteas' "greatest ever year".

Smith, Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla knocked off the runs with ease on the final morning to inflict a first home series defeat in 16 years on upon Australia, since the West Indies' 2-1 victory in 1992/93.

It was South Africa's eleventh win in 15 Tests this year and their tenth unbeaten series in a row - during which time they've beaten every single nation they've come up against.

"It's got to be the best," exclaimed Smith when asked where 2008 ranked in the history of South African cricket. "No disrespect for anything that's gone before us, we're very respectful of the history of our game, all the people who have had opportunities before us and who have never had opportunities.

"But I think for us it's got to be the most incredible season South African cricket has ever had, to sit here with the results we've got. I don't think anyone could argue with that."

And, having become the first team to win series in England and Australia in the same year, the South African captain was confident of a repeat performance in Sydney next week, knowing victory at the SCG would lift them to first in the ICC rankings.

Kings of the world: South Africa's players celebrate their historic series victory

"I think the balance of power is evening out in world cricket," added Smith. "Credit to Australia, they've dominated world cricket for a decade. I think they've obviously enjoyed that time.

"It doesn't mean that they're going to be beaten in future tours and be easier to beat. But I think the balance has evened out a little. I think we've just been composed, I think we've just gone about playing our cricket.

"When we've come out on the big days and been behind the game we've really played the better cricket when we've had to. I don't think I could have dreamt of a partnership like we had at the back end on day three."

There were so many stunning individual performances, with the man-of-the-match award going to Dale Steyn for his match figures of 10-154 and knock of 76 which turned the match around.

Steyn said: "The word choker came up - we don't have that kind of history on us. If we can start winning like this, fresh in our careers, this is what we can continue and take forward. Maybe it starts off a new generation, I don't know. I'm just very proud to be part of a side that's achieved something special."

"I don't think there's enough beer in all of Australia to satisfy us tonight," added spinner Paul Harris.

Cricinfo: Complete second Test scorecard
Sydney Morning Herald: Gallery of South Africa's triumph


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