Ponting pleased to stifle Proteas
Ricky Ponting believes Australia’s ability to win “big moments” in the first Test against South Africa was the key to their 162-run triumph at the Wanderers.
The tourists took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series in Johannesburg after bowling their hosts out for 291 shortly after tea on day five, with Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle claiming seven wickets between them to set up the victory.
Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis were the only two batsmen to put up any real resistance in the Proteas’ second innings and the Australia captain believes the all-rounder’s dismissal shortly before lunch was crucial to closing out the result.
“I said to the guys this morning that it was important that we started the day well and didn’t give South Africa any momentum going in to us taking the new ball,” he said. “We wanted just to chip away and put them under pressure.
“We were trying not to let them score quickly. As you’ve seen right through the game, the wicket with the new ball has been a totally different kettle of fish to when the ball’s been old.
“I thought when Mitch got Kallis, the real momentum of the game changed back in our favour and we closed up from there.”
However, Ponting refused to write off South Africa ahead of the next Test in Durban, which gets under way on Friday.
He continued: “Let’s not get too carried away. We know that South Africa are a very good cricket team and we’ll expect them to bounce back.
“I think we’ve played some excellent cricket over the last five days. I think differently from the series in Australia, when the big moments were theirs, in this game I think it was us who stood up and did what we needed to do and won those moments.
“I think the first day was very tough batting conditions. To be five for 250 at stumps was probably where the game was won to tell the truth.
“There were some outstanding individual performances through the game. Everybody at different times through the game has contributed which has been very satisfying and one thing that I said was lacking in Australia. So for me it’s very satisfying.”
Asked whether it was his best game for Australia, Johnson, who was named man-of-the-match for his eight wickets in the match and 96 not out, responded: “It’s probably up there. It was a very enjoyable Test for me.
“To be able to be out there with Northy (Marcus North) when he got a hundred and to put on a partnership like we did was really exciting for me. We’ve just got to celebrate tonight, but again, like Ricky said, look forward to the next Test match.”
South Africa captain Graeme Smith was predictably frustrated, but vowed to fight back when the second Test starts later this week.
He said: “Obviously we’re very disappointed in the way we’ve performed, we can really only look at ourselves. We are a pretty honest group with each other and we know we haven’t been up to standard in this Test match.
“Certainly, the first two days at least, I think both first innings we let ourselves down and made life quite difficult for us to come back. We put in a really good fight towards the back end and I think we can take a lot of positives from that.
“But we’ve got a lot of improving to do before Durban. We know we’re capable of it, I think we’ve proven that over a period of time now. So we’ve just got to look at ourselves, be honest with ourselves and bounce back.
“It’s pretty simple – we just have to raise our level of play to the standard that we’re used to playing. We never quite achieved that in this game.”
Asked what was the difference between the two sides, Smith added: “I think they probably achieved better areas with the ball than our bowlers, put our batters under more pressure than we did to theirs.
“I guess that was probably the difference at the end of the day. It’s the first time in a long time that we haven’t achieved the results with the ball that we have recently.
“Our bowling attack has the ability, there’s no doubt about that, so we’ve just got to improve to those levels in the next game.”