South Africa hold out for rare draw to deny Australia series sweep

Players from Australia and South Africa shake hands after the third cricket Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in Sydney on 8 January, 2023AFP

South Africa were untroubled as they batted out for their first draw in almost six years on the final day of the third Test in Sydney on Sunday, denying Australia a series whitewash.

Australia went into the fifth day of the rain-ravaged Test requiring 14 wickets for an improbable victory, but the Proteas comfortably negotiated their way through to earn a first draw in their last 47 Tests going back to New Zealand in 2017.

The teams shook hands with five overs left and South Africa at 106 for two in their second innings with Sarel Erwee unbeaten on 42 and Temba Bavuma 17.

Australia enforced the follow-on after Josh Hazlewood led the way with four wickets to dismiss the Proteas for 255 -- 21 runs short of their target, but their highest innings total of a dismal series.

"We tried different things, kept putting balls in good areas and hoped the luck would turn," Australia skipper Pat Cummins said.

"We were up against it, we had 150 overs to take 20 wickets on a good surface."

Australia’s Nathan Lyon (R) and team mates appeal to umpire Chris Gaffaney for LBW during the third cricket Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in Sydney on 8 January, 2023

Australia could only muster two wickets in South Africa's second innings with skipper Dean Elgar yet again failing along with Heinrich Klaasen.

Elgar fell for the fourth time in the series to a leg-side catch by wicketkeeper Alex Carey for 10.

Cummins peppered him with a rising delivery and targeted Elgar's technical batting flaw off his hips for yet another cheap dismissal.

Elgar finished a miserable series with just 56 runs from six innings at an average of 9.33, raising yet more questions about his future as South Africa's Test skipper.

"Touring Australia is never easy," Elgar said. "The message to the group yesterday was to fight it out on day five.

"Only three or four guys have played here before, so there are a lot of learnings. It is a tough place to tour, maybe the toughest in the world.

"Test cricket teaches you resilience. When things aren't on your side, you still have to wake up and try again."

Australia opener Usman Khawaja was named man-of-the-match for his unbeaten 195 in Australia's first innings declaration of 475-4.

Fellow opener David Warner was man-of-the-series, based largely on his double century in Melbourne.

Lyon distraught

Asked about his feelings on being stranded short of his first Test double-century by the declaration, Khawaja said: "I would have loved to get a double ton.

"But this is what cricket is about. You play for milestones but you also need to do the best for the team."

Australia’s Nathan Lyon reacts after bowling to South Africa’s Heinrich Klaasen during the third cricket Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in Sydney on 8 January, 2023

Australia had some chances on the final day and leading spinner Nathan Lyon was left distraught when two contentious reviews involving Klaasen went against him.

Klaasen survived a strident leg before wicket appeal and subsequent review on 27.

A run later a low catch by Steve Smith was given not out after a review with the third umpire Richard Kettleborough ruling that part of the ball was touching the grass when it went into Smith's fingers.

Smith was adamant he took the catch. "I was pretty certain I caught it, but it was deemed the other way. It's the umpire's call and you move on."

But Klaasen didn't last much longer and was bowled by Hazlewood for 35.

Hazlewood had earlier made a crucial double-wicket breakthrough to help wrap up South Africa's first innings.

He removed the stubborn Keshav Maharaj leg before wicket for 53 off 81 balls, ending a 85-run partnership with Simon Harmer.

Hazlewood struck again removing the stoic Harmer, bowling him off an inside edge for 47 from 165 balls.

Lyon wrapped up the Proteas first innings with a superb diving caught and bowled off Kagiso Rabada for three.

Hazlewood finished with four for 48 while his pace partner Pat Cummins took three for 60. Cummins finished as the series leading wicket-taker with 12 wickets at 16.91.

Australia missed out on a series clean sweep after winning the opening Test by a six-wicket rout in Brisbane inside two days, then hammering the Proteas by an innings and 182 runs in Melbourne.

The final Test draw means Australia have yet to mathematically seal a place in the World Test Championship final in London in June ahead of next month's series in India.