There are times when numbers do not tell the full story but in SA’s 492-run annihilation of Australia, they are the proof in the decisive pudding.
In dismissing Australia for 119 in 88 minutes, SA recorded their highest Test win in terms of runs and subjected the visitors to their worst Test defeat in runs since 1934.
Having lost the first Test in Durban by 118 runs, they grew in confidence and have won their first home Test series against Australia since readmission.
This triumph is also SA’s first against Australia at the Wanderers in 24 years.
At the turn of the century, Australia were dishing out record defeats. It was at this ground 17 years ago when Steve Waugh’s side beat Mark Boucher’s sorry charges by an innings and 360 runs — SA’s heaviest Test defeat.
Australia have been thoroughly beaten and if the 322-run caning in Cape Town was an indication of absent minds after the ball-tampering trauma, their abject second innings surrender was a case of both feet in the plane mentally.
Not even the best plaster can paper over the enormity of the victory, the cracks in Australia’s wafer-thin batting and how ruthless the Proteas were on Morné Morkel’s last morning of Test cricket.
The Australians had little fight left and what remained of it evaporated on the first ball of the day. Shaun Marsh (seven) inside-edged a Vernon Philander (6/21) delivery onto his pad and was well caught by Temba Bavuma at gully.
Three balls later, his brother Mitchell (0) wafted lazily outside his off-stump, gifting Quinton de Kock an easy catch. With Australia starting the day at 88/3, the loss of two quick wickets ended whatever chances of a small rearguard that remained.
On his way to career-best figures, 50 Test wickets against Australia and 204 Test scalps, Philander removed Tim Paine (seven), Pat Cummins (0) and Chadd Sayers (0) before Nathan Lyon’s (nine) run-out ended proceedings. His 32-ball spell of 6/3 was reminiscent of Curtley Ambrose’s 7/1 in 25 balls that settled the fifth Test of the 1992-93 Frank Worrell Trophy series in Perth.
While Ambrose capitalised on the Fremantle doctor, pace and trampoline bounce, Philander’s adherence to minimal seam movement on a 10c piece outside off-stump corroded Australia’s batting confidence. Proteas coach Ottis Gibson said such a bowling performance was overdue from the metronomic mover, but he also said the second innings in Durban was the series turning point.
"I’m especially pleased with Vern. I set him a challenge at the start of the summer and he’s succeeded in what I’ve challenged him to do. We saw in the morning that he was the one guy who was running in and getting all the wickets. He’s had a fantastic summer and I’m very pleased for him," Gibson said.
"That innings was a turning point and a couple of meetings after that game were massive. We didn’t play Mitchell Starc very well. He was the main threat and he bowled very well."
Matters beyond Paine’s control found him presiding over Australia’s heaviest defeats against SA in the past four years.
With his top order folding in consecutive innings, Paine and his lower order were hard-pressed to reproduce their first fight back. The loss of their two best batsmen in Steven Smith and David Warner compounded their batting problems in a series in which the banned Cameron Bancroft (223) was Australia’s top scorer.
Mitchell Marsh’s 96 in Durban was Australia’s best individual effort. "The performance was still concerning. We’ve had a really tough week but since the Durban Test, SA have outplayed us from a skill perspective.
"Maybe in this Test you can take what you like from this performance but there are some areas of concern," Paine said.