Beleaguered Australians Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson helped steer their team to a dramatic two-wicket victory in the second Test to level a memorable series against South Africa on Monday.
Australia were chasing 310 for victory on the final day and had slipped to 215 for six when Haddin and Johnson, whose places in the team have been questioned in the media, added 72 off 81 balls to take Australia to the verge of victory.
Haddin scored 55 and was dismissed 23 runs shy of the target, quickly followed by Peter Siddle for 4 as South Africa fought back with all four results still possible in fading light at the Wanderers.
But 18-year-old Pat Cummins, who had taken six wickets in South Africa’s second innings, completed a dream debut by scoring 13 not out and hitting the winning runs as he pulled leg-spinner Imran Tahir over the infield for four.
“Mitch asked me to keep a cool head, and I took that for swinging,” man-of-the-match Cummins said.
Johnson finished on 40 not out, a commanding innings that came off just 47 balls and included six fours.
Seamer Vernon Philander had earlier made his mark with five wickets, but South Africa captain Graeme Smith replaced him with Tahir for what proved to be the final over.
No play was possible in Monday’s first session because of rain, meaning the stands were largely empty for the tense finale.
South Africa won the first Test of the two-match series in Cape Town where Australia were bowled out for just 47 in another enthralling encounter.
Philander, playing in just his second Test, struck in the fourth over of the day when he bowled Australian captain Michael Clarke for two with a fine delivery that nipped back in through the gate.
Morné Morkel claimed the wicket of Ricky Ponting for 62 when Australia’s leading run-scorer tried to cut a short delivery outside off stump and edged it into the slips, having survived for over three-and-a-half hours in a innings that could prolong the embattled former captain’s career.
Australia then looked in control as Mike Hussey and Haddin added 50 for the sixth wicket before Philander struck with the first ball of his second spell, just two overs before the tea break.
The left-handed Hussey tried to play across the line of a delivery that straightened into the pads and was given out lbw for 39, the decision being confirmed on review.
The hosts then believed they were in sight of their first home series win over Australia since 1970 but the tourists had other ideas.
Haddin had endured a torrid time when he first came to the crease, being struck on the helmet by fast bowler Dale Steyn, but he began to play positively and collected seven fours as he counter-attacked.
The wicketkeeper, coming off a poor run of form with the bat, eventually fell in the second over with the second new ball as his hesitant drive at a Philander away-swinger gave wicketkeeper Mark Boucher an easy catch.
Siddle then chipped Steyn to mid-on after hitting a boundary, leaving South Africa with two wickets to get and Australia needing 18 runs.
Smith controversially gave Johnson singles while trying to target Cummins but if the youngster had any vulnerabilities he did not show them with a composed innings.
Johnson proved how dangerous a lower-order batsman he is by thumping a series of drives down the ground, transferring the pressure on to the misfiring South African bowlers.
A ball from the end, Cummins was given not out by the umpire and given the benefit of the doubt on review after an lbw appeal by Tahir.
The No. 10 batsman then slammed the same bowler for four to seal the amazing win. — Reuters