Johannesburg: Tailenders Mitchell Johnson and 18-year-old debutant Pat Cummins dragged Australia to a gutsy series-saving win in a scintillating finish to the second Test against South Africa at Wanderers on Monday.
Australia clawed their way to 310-8 in fading light on the final day for a nailbiting and record-breaking two-wicket win. The victory saw Australia draw the two-match contest and salvage a 41-year unbeaten run in Test series in South Africa.
The fierce rivals provided another rollercoaster ride in the dying stages of the match as South Africa dismissed Brad Haddin for 55 and then Peter Siddle (4) to have the tourists 292-8 and pile intense pressure on teenage No 10 Cummins and Johnson.
In a stunning finish, Cummins narrowly survived an lbw appeal and then hit a four to take Australia home and to the highest fourth-innings score ever to win a Test at the Johannesburg ground.
Mitchell Johnson finished 40 not out in a matchwinning role with the bat after he had faced huge criticism throughout the five days for his misfiring bowling form.
Veterans Haddin and Ricky Ponting, who made 62 in Australia's second innings, also responded to harsh criticism to perform when it counted and ensure Australia — against the odds — have still not lost a series in South Africa since 1970.
"We've had some ups and downs in this series," captain Michael Clarke said, referring to Australia's 47 all out in their spectacular loss in the first Test in Cape Town. "I couldn't be happier with this result. Mitchell was outstanding, Pat Cummins was fantastic."
In a nerve-jangling climax to a series that delivered on all its promises beforehand to be exciting and closely fought, legspinner Imran Tahir had a close appeal against Cummins turned down second ball from the end as South Africa made one final, desperate push.
Shortly afterwards, Cummins pulled Tahir through midwicket and to the boundary to play a pivotal and man of the match-winning role in one of Australia's finest Test wins in his first match.
The teenager also took 6-79 in South Africa's second innings, the best bowling debut by an Australian in Tests. He was the second-youngest player to take six wickets in a Test innings.
"A little bit nervous when I came in," Cummins said of his innings. "But Johnno (Johnson) said 'keep a clear head'. This, as a Test match debut, has been unbelievable."
South Africa were expected to close out victory in the final Test for a 2-0 series whitewash after setting the tourists a daunting 310 to win the match and save the series. No team had made more than 294 at Wanderers in the fourth innings to win a Test before.
The Proteas also had Australia 19-2 in their chase before Usman Khawaja (65) and Ponting played key early roles in the memorable fightback with a 122-run stand.
Even then, Ponting fell early on Monday after adding only eight to his overnight score — and after a three-hour rain delay added more drama — leaving Australia on 165-5 and way off victory.
Mike Hussey (39) and Haddin put together a 50-run partnership before tea, Haddin and Johnson combined for an attacking 72 run-stand and Cummins kept his nerve in grinding pressure at the end.
Vernon Philander had 5-70 for South Africa, including key breakthroughs to remove Hussey and Haddin. But Australia kept coming to save the series with a fighting final-day display that ranks as one of cricket's finest wins.
"We both threw a lot of punches but we've ended level again," South Africa captain Graeme Smith said. "To chase 310, their guys stepped up. It's wonderful to see cricket played like this."