Vol. 5 Num 568 Sat. December 31, 2005  

Last laugh Ponting's

Skipper Ricky Ponting said Australia had the last laugh after a thumping 184-run victory over South Africa in the second Test here Friday despite the mindgames of Proteas captain Graeme Smith.

The Australians, who seized control of the Melbourne Test from lunch on the second day to wrap it up in the first over after lunch on the final day, take a 1-0 series lead to Sydney for the final Test starting Monday.

"I don't know what he was trying to achieve out of it, whether he was trying to get under our skin and unsettle us a bit," Ponting told a post-match press conference.

"But when you make big statements like he has, then it puts yourself under a bit more pressure. Every innings he has had, he's got off to a start but then got out," Ponting said.

Before the first Test, the South African captain said Ponting's team were "scared of losing in Australia" and that some of them were inexperienced in international cricket.

"I guess sitting here right now, we've had the last laugh," Ponting said.

Capitalising on a giant momentum shift from a record 107-run last wicket partnership in the first innings between man-of-the-match Mike Hussey (122) and Glenn McGrath (11), Australia dismissed the Proteas for 181 to claim a psychological victory.

Ponting, whose captaincy had been questioned in the drawn first Perth Test, had few critics this time as he led the Australians and claimed a first innings 117 as well, in contrast to Smith's knocks of 22 and 25.

South African coach Mickey Arthur admitted Thursday that his team gave way under the pressure, and it was senior bowlers Shane Warne (4-74) and McGrath (3-44) who sealed the conclusive victory Friday.

"Mike Hussey and Glenn McGrath's partnership on day two has been the defining moment of the Test match," Ponting said. "Those extra 100 runs were vital for us."

He added: "We have dominated the last two matches and we are sitting here now 1-0 up, so that's a very good position for us."

Fast bowler Shaun Pollock remained 67 not out in the South African second innings and batted for 156 minutes, hitting eight boundaries and a six off Stuart MacGill.

Smith rued his team's missed opportunities. Andre Nel dropped Ponting on 17 before he went on to make 117, and Hussey was grassed by Jacques Kallis on 27 before he finished with 122.