Australia regained their world No. 2 ranking with a comfortable 47-run win over South Africa in the fifth and final one-day international at the Wanderers on Friday.
Australia took advantage of being given first use of an excellent batting pitch by South Africa captain Graeme Smith, making 303 for seven despite a mid-innings stumble.
Despite a second wicket stand of 104 between Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis, South Africa fell steadily behind the asking rate and wickets fell at regular intervals after Gibbs was out for 82. The series win meant that South Africa retained their world No. 1 ranking. Australia briefly slipped to third behind India after losing the fourth match in Port Elizabeth on Monday, but returned to the No. 2 spot with their consolation win.
South Africa won the series 3-2 following a 4-1 series win in Australia. The two teams shared the honors in two Test series, with South Africa winning 2-1 in Australia and the Australians reversing the result in South Africa.
“It’s a good way to finish,” Australia captain Ricky Ponting said. “We were pretty disappointed with the way we played over the last few games, so to bounce back today is a good thing for the group. It’s been a really tough few months of cricket.”
Smith said he was happy with the overall results.
“It’s been a terrific summer for South African cricket,” he said.
Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke gave Australia a flying start when they put on 127 off 116 balls for the first wicket.
Haddin hit 62 off 64 balls and Clarke 66 off 69 as they put together their second successive century partnership. But they were out in quick succession.
Ponting (40) and Callum Ferguson (41) added 54 for the third wicket before Australia again struggled against South Africa’s slow bowlers.
Left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe took two for 44 and off-spinner J.P. Duminy made up for the absence of Johan Botha by bowling a full quota of 10 overs and taking three for 48. He also held three catches, one off his own bowling.
Gibbs and captain Graeme Smith put on 46 for the first wicket for South Africa, before Gibbs and Kallis (64) put the hosts in a winning position.
But Gibbs missed a sweep against off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, the man of the match, and South Africa found themselves on a slide when Kallis drove at a wide ball from left-arm seam bowler Nathan Bracken.
Ben Laughlin held a remarkable catch to dismiss South African danger man Albie Morkel on the midwicket boundary, leaping high and maintaining his balance to land inside the rope.
South Africa called for the batting power play in the next over and with the first delivery Laughlin bowled man of the series A.B. de Villiers for 38 to make victory for Australia almost certain.