Australia, England, Graeme Smith, South Africa
If reaching the top is tough, then staying there is even harder, so South Africa have proven themselves more than worthy of their number one Test ranking with victory in Australia.
In doing so they have now won back-to-back series’ away from home in England and Down Under, also becoming the first team to win successive series' in Australia for nearly 20 years.
Nine of their ten Tests in 2012 have been away from home and they have not lost one. With home series’ against Pakistan and New Zealand to come, skipper Graeme Smith must be confident his side can continue their reign at the top, with the challenge now to emulate the great Australian side of the late 90s and early 2000s, who held a firm and ruthless grip on the world game for more than a decade.
This 1-0 victory in Australia is all the more impressive because they did not always have it their own way. Indeed in Adelaide the betting line swung towards the Aussies, only for the tourists to to show tremendous character and dig in for the draw, something Smith acknowledges.
"We had to scrap and adapt and our depth was tested," Smith told the gathered news sport reporters "At times, we didn't bowl well. We hit our straps in this match and we got everything together.
“This was the performance that I have got used to in our guys over the years and it's important not to take that for granted."
In the decisive Test at the WACA, where much of the pre-match hype was about the departing Ricky Ponting, South Africa showed no mercy, with the irrepressible and unflappable batting of Hashim Amla again a highlight. His 196 helped drag the game away from Australia on day two, the sheer speed of scoring ensuring his bowlers had plenty of time to skillet through the Aussie batsmen.
As it was they needed barely a day, wit the game wrapped on day four with Australia still a mammoth 309 runs short of their target.
The now Ponting-less Aussies must go away and continue their re-building ahead of England next summer. Though both teams now face the challenge of trying to usurp a South Africa side that have proven themselves to the world’s best this year.