Australia win third test to avoid historic South Africa whitewash
The home side had been facing the prospect of a first home clean sweep in their test history but Usman Khawaja knock inspired victory over tourists.
Australia cruised to a seven-wicket consolation victory in the day-night third test on Sunday after dismissing South Africa for 250 and knocking off the 127 runs for victory for the loss of three wickets before dinner on day four.
There was a minor scare when, with 63 runs still required, Dave Warner was run-out for 47 and Usman Khawaja dismissed for a duck inside one over but there was never any real doubt that Australia would avoid a first ever 3-0 sweep on home soil.
Opener Matt Renshaw, one of three new caps brought into the Australia side after heavy defeats in the first two tests, scored 34 not out and brought the hosts level after his captain Steve Smith was dismissed for 40 with only two runs required.
It was left to another of the debutants, Peter Handscomb, to score the winning run with a single to midwicket. It was Australia's second pink ball victory after they beat New Zealand in the inaugural test in Adelaide last year but more importantly ended a run of five defeats.
"We've been outplayed by South Africa"
"I'm very pleased," Smith said. "It was obviously a disappointing way to start the series, we've been outplayed by South Africa, but I'm proud of the way the boys came out and turned things around and showed a bit of fight, resilience and character. It was a long time coming."
While the success of the overhaul of the batting line-up remains largely moot ahead of the visit of Pakistan, the strength of Australian pace bowling is not in doubt.
Left-arm quick Mitchell Starc earlier finished with figures of 4-80 as Australia removed the last four South African batsmen for the addition of 56 runs to their overnight tally.
South Africa had resumed on 194-6 but lost Quinton de Kock in the third over of the day before the new ball accounted for Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and finally opener Stephen Cook.
Cook, under pressure after making a minor contribution to the wins in the first two tests, eked out his second test century off 235 balls, bringing up the milestone by pulling Josh Hazlewood to the square leg for his eighth four.
He was unable to add any more in the five further deliveries he faced before Starc got one to nip back in and bowl him for 104 to bring an end to the innings.
"You don't just come here and beat Australia"
"It's pretty disappointing to lose the test match but it's hard to look past the fact that we've played great cricket," said South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, who has overseen a third successive series triumph for the Proteas in Australia.
"You don't just come here and beat them, you have to play some really good cricket, so to have done that over the majority of the tour makes me a really satisfied captain."
Warner was prevented from opening in Australia's first innings after Du Plessis's tactical declaration on 259-9 left him stranded off the field receiving treatment.
The Australia vice-captain looked like he was intent reaching the victory target on his own and had hit 47 runs off 51 balls when he went for a single, only for Renshaw to change his mind and leave him stranded as the bails came off.
Khawaja's place in the side is safe for the three-test series against the nation of his birth around the New Year despite his duck and he was named Man of the Match for contributing 145 of Australia's 383 first innings runs.
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