After the first day, the Australians were pinned to the canvas with a South African boot on their throats. So, having finished the match with the South Africans in a sleeperhold, they can claim the dubiously titled ''moral victory'' - the immoral type now, presumably, the licensed product of French pushbike races.
Who knows, Australia might have produced a genuine victory had James Pattinson not plonked his left sneaker a couple of centimetres over the crease, momentarily before Hashim Amla chopped the ball onto the stumps. Which, rather than providing the vital breakthrough, would become the day's talking point. And never is the banter more idle than in the final hours of a dying Test.
Admittedly, in the realms of cricketing anticlimax, the revelation of a no-ball after an apparently legitimate dismissal is exceeded only by the early dismissal of David Warner. But, in a game where technology often creates more confusion than it prevents, the outcome in most cases is clear-cut. It is a no-ball or it is not. Which did not deter the concoction of more crazy theories than a political assassination.
Brett Lee suggested no-balls be the provence of the umpire or the review, but not both. Mark Taylor thinks no-balls not called by the umpire are close enough to be legal, even if they are not. Mark Nicholas believes the free hit in Twenty20s had reduced the number of no-balls. Although, given a free hit in a Test match, surely many would be tempted to hit Mr Wow. Barry Richards wants a thicker crease.
But the final word came at the tea break, when Channel Nine employed yet another technological aid, Spidercam, to analyse the game's wickets-from-no-balls epidemic. This revealed, definitively, that Lee owns a really nice pair of suede shoes.
On a pitch flatter than Nasser Hussein's vowels, Australia had seemed unlikely to dismiss South Africa before Christmas, let alone stumps, despite a well-timed declaration. Even if, after J.P. Duminy's injury, the visitors could not include another South African batsman. Unfortunate with Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott both in good touch.
That the Australians caused a few trembles in the visitors' sheds will give them heart. Even Amla, whose resting pulse rate is lower than Glenn McGrath's batting average, looked unusually hurried on a surface that had previously seemed as lively as a Leonard Cohen tribute band.
Although Amla was less flustered than the Nine commentators after he survived yet another raucous shout from the Australians. Ian Healy and Michael Slater were adamant the lack of a white ''hot spot'' on Amla's bat was not conclusive proof he had not hit it. The same ''new improved'' hot spot that usually receives more commentary box testimonials than a limited edition commemorative photo of Ricky Ponting's thigh pad.
Inevitably, the hottest spot was anywhere near Pattinson, whose battle with Graeme Smith, both cricketing and verbal, was highly entertaining. Smith's dismissal was the type of moment that defines a menacing young quick, and whetted the appetite for a return bout in Adelaide.
The game, however, belonged to Michael Clarke, who was hugged so close to Australian bosoms last year the entire population had ink stains from his tattoos. But Clarke's reverse Brian - he's not a naughty boy, he is the messiah! - gains yet more momentum. Amazing how the ability to accumulate runs at the rate Shane Watson accumulates X-rays can make the most annoying traits seem endearing.
''I want to not like him,'' remarked Kerry O'Keeffe, after noting Clarke hates golf and beer, and loves shopping. ''But I do like him.''
But the most pertinent observation about Clarke came from Richards, who was amazed by the skipper's ability to either hit the ball in the middle of the bat, or miss it completely. The perfect role model for a generation whose only shades of grey are in the pages of soft-core literary porn.