Sensational Steyn shows why South Africa are number one

This epic series has funneled toward a grandstand finish at Newlands as South Africa leveled the series by beating Australia by 231 runs amid high drama at St George's Park on Sunday.

This epic series has funneled toward a grandstand finish at Newlands as South Africa leveled the series by beating Australia by 231 runs amid high drama at St George's Park on Sunday.

Dale Steyn (four for 55) finally showed why he is the best bowler in the world as he ripped through the Australian batting order and the visitors lost nine wickets to be bowled out in the last minute of the extra half-hour in the final session of the fourth day.

The match could not have been more evenly poised when the visitors reached 141 for one at tea as they went about chasing an unlikely but seemingly increasingly tangible 448 for victory. Bad fifth day weather forecasts meant that no clear favourite presented itself but one thing was for sure: South Africa's once-inexorable grip over the must-win match was slipping away in a hurry.

Those that had felt that Graeme Smith's declaration on 270 for five, half an hour before lunch, was too conservative might have withdrawn their opinions as Australia looked as if they might just have an eye on chasing the mammoth total.

Hashim Amla's beautiful 127 not out had put the Proteas in a commanding position but Wayne Parnell's serious groin injury and speculation over how much rain to expect on the last day had made the timing of the declaration a complex puzzle for Smith.

Australia had scored at 4.5 runs to the over during their 126-run opening stand but when the hasty Warner (66 off 73 deliveries) was trapped lbw by the Proteas' makeshift frontline spinner JP Duminy shortly before tea, a pressure-building run drought ensued. Puffs of dust started appearing almost every time the ball hit the surface and reverse swing represented another challenge on the dry, crumbling wicket.

Australia scored only 14 runs in the first hour after tea but, far more importantly, the hour included a collapse of four wickets for four runs that all but left the batting order in tatters.

Morne Morkel started the collapse when he found the edge of Alex Doolan's bat and Shaun Marsh completed a pair of ducks as he was out lbw to Vernon Philander the next over. Michael Clarke then nicked off to slip and was the first of Steyn's victims and Steven Smith was the next as the paceman trapped him lbw first ball.

Brad Haddin (one) then received the best ball of the match as Steyn swung the red leather through the gap between bat and pad and made a terrific mess of the stumps. 166 for six and the Australian dressing room's thoughts were likely becoming prayers that the wettest of day five's weather forecasts would hold true.

Chris Rogers (107), playing for his place after three consecutive failures this series, held resolute almost to the end as he doggedly fought on almost alone with a hugely impressive ton – but no batsman offered him good company. He did well to farm the strike as Mitchell Johnson (six) managed half an hour in the middle before he was adjudged lbw to Philander. Ryan Harris (six) joined Rogers and did admirably to survive half an hour before the scheduled close at 18:00 local time – and it was a moot point as to whether the umpires would grant the Proteas an extra half an hour to administer the coup de grace.

Harris was lbw to Steyn soon afterwards in yet another decision that had to go upstairs on review to be approved – and a couple of overs later most remaining Australian hopes of survival were dashed as Rogers was spectacularly and narrowly run out by 12th man Alviro Peterson.

Nine wickets down and with the light fading fast the only chance of a Harry Houdini-esque escape would have been getting through two more overs of spin (the umpires ruled out fast bowling in the bad light) and then for apocalyptic rain to wash out the last day.

Dean Elgar finished the match off as umpire Richard Illingworth gave Nathan Lyon (zero) out and Australia were dismissed for 214. Replays later showed that Lyon had edged the ball that would probably have gone over the stumps in any case, but the visitors had used up the last of their reviews. Aside from the openers, no Australian batsman made it to double figures.

Jubilation for South Africa meant despair for Australia and the few hundred fans that accompanied the band in the old stand joined their voices in relative unison and produced a chorus that could have been mistaken for a choir of several thousand Sunday service goers. And they didn't stop until long after the match ended.

JP Duminy was awarded Man of the Match for his big first-innings ton (123) and his tidy bowling (one for 24 and one for 33) in each innings. It was remarkable the way in which the second Test match mirrored the first, with the side that batted first declaring in the morning of the fourth day and winning by a similar margin before the day was up. Newlands is sold out on the first few days and promises to be an absolute jaffer.

<b>Nick Sadleir at St George's Park</b>