Faf du Plessis continued his rich vein of form as he and AB de Villiers steered South Africa to the One-Day Triangular series title against Australia in Harare on Saturday.
Du Plessis lost his wicket on 96 with the scores tied on 217 as he attempted to become the first player to hit four ODI hundreds in a series. But he skied Mitchell Johnson and the catch was taken. The pair had put on 91 for the fourth wicket.
De Villiers (57 off 41 balls) hit the winning runs as South Africa finished the job in 40.5 overs.
Du Plessis had got to 51 in 46 balls and shared a 98-run, second wicket partnership with Hashim Amla as the pair went about the business of chasing the required 218 for victory.
South Africa had lost Quinton de Kock early, but De Villiers’ decision to bowl first after winning the toss had paid off as the Proteas restricted Australia to 217 for 9 off their 50 overs.
In their chase, De Kock fell for seven, with the score 14-1, but then Du Plessis joined Amla as the pair steadied the ship in search of a low winning total. However, shortly after getting to his fifty, Amla slapped a long hop from part-time leg-spinner Steve Smith to cover and was out for 51.
That brought Wayne Parnell to the crease, in a surprise promotion up the order, to join Du Plessis. The experiment look to have failed though as Parnell laboured to 6 off 24 balls before he was bowled by James Faulkner with the score on 126.
The best batsman in the world, De Villiers, then joined his long-time friend in the middle and normal service was resumed.
Earlier, Dale Steyn earlier ripped through the Australian top-order as he picked up four wickets to vindicate taking first use of the ball. Steyn finished with 4-35 off his 10 overs to set up the South Africans who would have fancied chasing anything under 250 on this pitch.
Wickets tumbled at regular intervals, with only Aaron Finch, with 54 at the top of the order, looking settled until he too was undone by Steyn. The Australian innings looked in tatters when Johnson was out in the 38th over, reducing them to 144-8.
However, a vital ninth wicket stand of 71 between Faulkner (40) and Mitchell Starc (29 not out) steered Australia past the 200 mark. The last five overs proved costly for South Africa, with 50 runs coming off them.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir was brought back into the starting XI – batsman Rilee Rossouw was left out – as the Proteas seemed to put their faith in their top-order batsmen to chase down whatever target the Australians would set.
The Proteas batting order was De Kock, Amla, Du Plessis, Parnell, De Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller, Steyn, Aaron Phangiso, Morne Morkel and Tahir.
Australia made a fast start and put on 52 runs in their mandatory 10-over batting powerplay at the top of the innings, but Steyn removed Philip Hughes and Parnell got rid of Steve Smith as Australia moved to 67 for 2 after 15 overs.
Tahir, who went into the match as the No1 bowler in the world for those who have ever sent down more than 1 000 deliveries, then flummoxed the dangerous George Bailey with the googly, and bowled the Australian for 12.
On a pitch being used in this series for the first time, South Africa continued to pick up wickets at regular intervals, with Steyn showing why he’s so dangerous on all surfaces. He had figures of 4-19 after six hostile overs, as Australia slipped to 144-8 after 38 overs.
Morkel finished with 2-58, Parnell 2-40 and Tahir 1-40 as they chipped in to help the cause.