AFP | Australian cricket’s day of shame ended in a crushing 322-run defeat by South Africa on the fourth day of the the third Test at Newlands on Sunday.
Set an unlikely 430 to win, Australia were bowled out for a paltry 107, with fast bowler Morne Morkel taking five for 23.
It was a fittingly dismal end to the match for Australia after they were caught up in a ball-tampering scandal on Saturday which sent shockwaves through the sport.
Skipper Steve Smith was subsequently banned for one match by the ICC, just hours after he and vice-captain David Warner had stood down from their positions for the remainder of the match.
“It has been a horrible 24 hours,” admitted stand-in captain Tim Paine.
The Australians had already woken to bruising criticism from their own chief executive and prime minister, as well as condemnation from around the cricket world.
It followed the admission by Smith and young batsman Cameron Bancroft that they had deliberately tried to change the condition of the ball on Saturday.
The day seldom got any better.
Paine and his bowlers could not stop South Africa from taking their second innings total to 373.
Embattled opening batsmen Bancroft and Warner weathered a challenging 70 minutes before tea at the start of their second innings before the run-out of Bancroft sparked a collapse in which all ten wickets fell for just 50 runs in 19.3 overs and 99 minutes.
South Africa’s crushing win gave them a 2-1 lead in the four-match series, with Australia facing an internal inquiry into the ball tampering scandal and having only four days to regroup before the final Test starts in Johannesburg on Friday.
South African captain Faf du Plessis said he did not believe the scandal detracted from his team’s win.
“For me there’s no buts. I look at the amazing achievement over four days, the way we applied pressure to the Australian team in all facets of the game,” said Du Plessis.
He admitted, though, that South Africa had used the controversy to their advantage.
“What we tried to do today was to make them aware there is a lot of pressure on them,” he said.
“A lot of noise that’s probably going on inside their heads. Trying to get to that space where it’s not just about just watching the ball and hitting the ball, it’s about a lot of other things, trying to get to a place where you think their brains will go even more over the top thinking about things away from the game.”
Paine admitted: “It was extremely difficult but it’s no excuse for what happened.
“We’re still the Australian cricket team and we’re expected to put up a better effort than we did today. Certainly it was in some horrible circumstances and probably some circumstances we brought on ourselves.”
Du Plessis said South Africa had been highly motivated before the series but had become “super pumped” after losing a fractious first Test in Durban.
He said that senior players such as himself, AB de Villiers and Morkel knew this was likely to be their last series against Australia and they were determined “to keep our foot on the gas” in Johannesburg.
The collapse started when Bancroft fell to a direct hit from midwicket by Du Plessis after being called for a risky single by Warner.
Three overs later Warner edged Kagiso Rabada to De Villiers at third slip.
Both Bancroft and Warner were booed as they left the wicket but the near-capacity crowd’s jeers grew in volume when Smith walked out – and there were more boos after he was caught at gully off Morkel for seven.
It was Smith’s last appearance in the series after being banned for one match for his role in the ball tampering scandal, which means he will miss the fourth Test.
During Smith’s short stay at the wicket, two wickets fell off successive balls from left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, with Usman Khawaja caught at slip off a ball that went straight on and Shaun Marsh prodding one which turned and bounced out of the rough to short leg.