Aaron Finch and Steve Smith set up a 73-run victory in the third ODI of the five-match series in Canberra on Wednesday.
Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla got South Africa’s pursuit of 330 off to the perfect start. The ball flew to the boundary regularly, while it was still new and hard. De Kock was the first to go, for a 53-ball 47, to leave South Africa on 108-1 in the 19th over.
Faf du Plessis and Rilee Rosouw went cheaply to bring AB de Villiers to the crease. He made it look easy, as he usually does, scoring 52 off just 34 balls. His dismissal ended a 76-run partnership with Amla and shifted the momentum into Australia’s favour.
Amla registered yet another ODI century, but fell for 102 off 115 balls while trying to step on the accelerator. After his dismissal, the rest of the wickets fell in quick succession. The innings ended on 256-9, as a knee injury prevented Imran Tahir from coming out to bat.
In the end South Africa fell 73 run short after getting off to a good start. The middle order struggled as the pitch slowed down and a constant stream of wickets made it impossible to get close.
Earlier, George Bailey won the toss and elected to bat on an absolute belter of a wicket. The opening pair got the hosts off to the perfect start, putting on 118 before David Warner fell for a 50-ball 53 off the last ball of the 20th over.
Shane Watson strode to the wicket at No 3 and scored a fluent 40 off 38 deliveries. He tried to take advantage of the part-time seamer, Farhaan Behardien, and was caught on the boundary. At the other end, Finch reached his ton. Just when it looked as if the burly opener was going to really cut loose, he suffered the embarrassment of being bowled by De Villiers. His 109 off 127 balls should more than make up for it, though.
Steve Smith used his improvisation to hit strange areas at the end of the innings and propelled Australia to 329-5. He finished unbeaten with 73 off just 55 balls and once again reminded the selectors of his value in the ODI format.
With such a big total, it’s not surprising that the bowling figures didn’t make pretty reading. After going for 19 off the final over of the innings, Morne Morkel haemorrhaged 84 runs in his 10 overs. Vernon Philander went for 70 in his ration and the usually misery Imran Tahir leaked 40 runs in just six overs.
The two guys that can hold their heads high are Dale Steyn and Farhaan Behardien. Steyn returned figures of 0-53 in 10 overs, while the Titans all-rounder finished with 1-39 in eight overs. On a flat deck, they did just enough to ensure South Africa had an outside chance of chasing down the target.