Chasing 101 to win in the final innings, the hosts survived a late response by Australia’s bowlers to make up for the 118-run loss at Durban in the opener.
Here, we take a look at the key talking points from the fourth day at Port Elizabeth.
RABADA’S MAGIC 10
The Proteas pace sensation was on fire in the first innings after his five-wicket burst within the space of just 18 deliveries decimated Australia’s batting order after they had got off to a strong start.
He went a step further in the second innings, accounting for six Aussie wickets to leave the hosts with a paltry total to chase down. Kagiso Rabada had done the bulk of the damage on Sunday itself with three key wickets of David Warner, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh.
The visitors added just six runs to their overnight score when Rabada burst through the gates of the younger Marsh sibling to give South Africa a flying start on Monday morning. The 22-year-old pacer then dismissed Pat Cummins to complete his second five-for in the match and fourth 10-wicket haul in Test cricket. It is the joint-most 10-wicket haul by any bowler in Test history before the age of 23, along with Pakistan great Waqar Younis. For reference, the leading South Africa pacer Dale Steyn has five to his name.
It is indeed crazy to think that he is spearheading South Africa’s pace attack at the age of 22 and already has 124 Test wickets in his kitty. It is scary to think that he is only going to get better and is he keeps going like this, he is almost certain to end up as the greatest pacer in South Africa’s history.
RABADA FACES SUSPENSION
The first Test had been overshadowed by the Warner-Quinton de Kock saga but all the talk in the second Test has centered around Rabada. While plenty of it has to do with his sensational display of fast bowling, most of it pertains to his disciplinary issues.
He came into the Test with five demerit points and has already been charged with an ICC Level 2 offence for his aggressive send-off for Australia skipper Steve Smith in the first innings. The Proteas pacer has now been charged with another Level 1 offence for his send-off for Warner on Sunday evening. This time, instead of a brush of the shoulders, it had been for screaming in the face of the batsman as he walked by.
Another three demerit points for his Level 2 offence could see him suspended for two Tests, effectively ruling him out for the remainder of the series.
ABD SALVO NULLIFIES LATE AUSSIE CHARGE
Australia had dismissed opener Dean Elgar at the stroke of lunch to carve a miniscule opening, If they had any faint hopes of staging a dramatic comeback in the second session after dismissing Aiden Markram, they were quickly dashed as AB de Villiers carried off from where he left in the first innings.
The South African stalwart was in a hurry to finish off the match and made batting look easy on a difficult wicket as he launched a counter-attack on Australia’s bowlers.
The 33-year-old clubbed Nathan Lyon for a huge six at the start of his innings and was equally ferocious against the pacers. He, along with Hashim Amla, brought the hosts to the brink of victory before Australia dismissed the pair in quick succession.
With 20 runs still to get, Cummins had Amla caught behind before Lyon had De Villiers caught in the deep in the very next over. It was, however, scant consolation for the visitors as the Test had well and truly been lost by then.
Stoneman and eight fellow specialists have arrived in Hamilton, where England will warm up for next week’s first Test with two two-day fixtures against a New Zealand XI.
As a forecast cyclone delayed its entrance long enough to permit an unexpected full practice, Stoneman did not have to battle the elements for once – having done so back in London as he stepped up preparations to resume his Test career.
The 30-year-old stayed on in Sydney initially, after England’s 4-0 Ashes defeat, with his Australian wife Serene and her family – before travelling home in the midst of the English winter.
Greeted there by the significant snowfall which brought parts of the country to a standstill, the Surrey left-hander was able to practise in grass nets under a tent – even as most of the Oval outfield was turning white.
“Unfortunately, I timed it perfectly for getting back just as the snow arrived,” he told BBC’s Test Match Special.
“So it was a bit of a nightmare.
“(But) I had a good week back at Surrey on some grass surfaces in the tent at The Oval.”
Stoneman must restate his case here after his Ashes fortunes dwindled, and despite two early half-centuries he ended up with an average of only 25.77 in nine innings.
In the intervening weeks, he has rationalised where he might have done better – but refuses to dwell on any past mistakes.
“I just took a bit of time out to take stock of things … have a good reflection of how things went,” he said.
“It gets to a point where you have to move on.
“The past is in the past. It was an unbelievable experience, and something I’ll never forget.
“I’d have loved it to go better than it did, but I’ve got some really fond memories of it.”
Stoneman added: “There were some good battles out in the middle, and at times I felt I was very close to doing some really good things.
“It just wasn’t to be, but I hope that is something I can put right in Test cricket out here in New Zealand.”
AB de Villiers said he felt that he needed to prove he was still worth his place in the South African team, after continuing his return to Test cricket with a match-changing hundred against Australia.
De Villiers made a magnificent 126 not out and took South Africa to a likely series-levelling position on the third day of the second Test against Australia at St George’s Park on Sunday.
After taking a first-innings lead of 139, South Africa reduced Australia to 180 for five at the close, a slender lead of 41 with only five wickets remaining.
“I was very motivated to prove that I can still play this game,” said De Villiers, whose performance was described by his former captain Graeme Smith as “one of the great Test innings”.
De Villiers did not play Test cricket between January 2016 and December 2017, after he decided he needed time away from the game.
“I was very motivated to prove to everyone that I can still play the game, even though I have been away for a while,” he said.
De Villiers insisted he had never fallen out of love with the five-day format.
Most Test centuries v Australia in last 10 years:— Bharath Seervi (@SeerviBharath) March 11, 2018
6 AB de Villiers (28 inns)
6 Virat Kohli (27 inns)#SAvAus
“I was just tired of playing. I was just flat, physically and mentally. There were other factors, I had become a dad, there were a lot of things happening in my life. I felt I needed to breathe a bit.”
Against a powerful Australian bowling attack, on a pitch where other batsmen had struggled to score freely, De Villiers made batting look easy. He played some breathtaking strokes in hitting 20 fours and a six in a 146-ball innings.
“He is one of the best players in the world, if not the best,” said Australian bowling coach David Saker. “It seemed like he was batting on a different wicket to everyone else.”
De Villiers claimed he was nervous as he approached his 22nd Test century, his sixth against Australia and his first against any opponents in more than three years.
He celebrated exuberantly when he reached the mark with an upper cut for four against Pat Cummins.
“It was right up there with the best feeling ever,” he said. “I was very nervous in the nineties.”
He told batting partner Vernon Philander that he was struggling to breathe and that his legs felt numb.
“I was constantly reminding myself through the nineties that it’s not about yourself, it’s about contributing as many runs as possible to the team. That made me a feel a little bit better,” he said.