A masterful bowling display earned the Proteas their first victory of the Tri-Nation series, as they beat Australia by 47 runs.
An Australian victory appeared on the cards as the Proteas were restricted to 189-9 – an all too familiar sight after they were skittled for 188 in their four-wicket defeat to West Indies on Friday, but an excellent all-round bowling display saw the Aussies bowled out for 142, to leave each team on a victory apiece.
The Proteas were at one point reeling on 112-6, but a stern show of resistance from Farhaan Behardien in which he scored 62 proved pivotal in the victory, and has enhanced his chances of keeping his place in the side when Faf du Plessis returns, especially now that Rilee Rossouw is an injury concern with a possible dislocated shoulder after he fell awkwardly when fielding on the boundary.
A strong response was required from the Proteas against a challenging Australian unit that tore apart West Indies on Sunday, and AB de Villiers decided to bat first again on a slow, low, spin-friendly deck. They adjusted their side accordingly and handed a debut to Tabraiz Shamsi at the expense of Kyle Abbott, while Wayne Parnell came in for Chris Morris, who was rested with a hamstring niggle.
An encouraging start was made by opening pair Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla, but De Kock’s promising knock came to an end when a successful lbw review from Australian skipper Steve Smith saw the 23-year-old walk back to the pavilion for 18. The decision to give him out, however, appeared to baffle coach Russell Domingo.
The next stand didn’t last long as Rilee Rossouw fell lbw to Nathan Lyon for seven, before Smith was the centre of attention for the next wicket, as a sharp bit of work in the field from him saw Amla short of his crease for 35.
Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals and the next victim was De Villiers, who scored a sluggish 22 off 38 balls. He’s now gone 92 balls without hitting a boundary, a far cry from his explosive displays in the IPL. JP Duminy was equally pedestrian in his 13, while Parnell didn’t hang around too long either.
Then came the crucial partnership, as Behardien stemmed the flow of wickets. Aaron Phangiso, who came in at a flattering No 8, only scored nine, but he hung around for 41 deliveries, which allowed Behardien to play his natural game without the pressure of wickets falling around him.
Behardien brought up a 5th ODI half-century, before eventually falling for 62 in the last over, in what was one of the most important knocks of his career. Josh Hazlewood inspired the low total, his 2-20 being the most economical 10-over spell for an opening Australian bowler since Glenn McGrath’s 2-18 in 2005.
It was up to the bowlers yet again to get the Proteas out of a difficult situation, and they duly delivered. Parnell gave them the best possible start by trapping David Warner lbw for one in the second over, and it would turn out to be a constant onslaught, as Kagiso Rabada got in on the act to send Usman Khawaja’s (2) wickets clattering.
Parnell continued his successful return to the setup to get Smith for eight, and it looked increasingly apparent that Aaron Finch was going to be Australia’s only hope. He was unfazed by the situation and blasted 23 of the 26-run stand involving Glenn Maxwell.
Shamsi’s first over was a dramatic one. His second ball saw an unsuccessful review to remove Finch, but three balls later he would get his first international wicket, seeing off Maxwell for three, again lbw. Shamsi almost had Finch again in his next over. An lbw shout fell on deaf ears. A review would have sorted that out.
Imran Tahir chipped in to send Mitchell Marsh back for eight. In the same over, Finch raised his bat for fifty with the score on 74-5. Then came a lethal spell of pacey inswingers from Rabada which yielded two wickets.
The game was all but over when Phangiso got in on the act. With the wickets column increasingly becoming a point of concern for Finch he unleashed, only to mistime his shot straight into the hands of De Villiers.
Nathan Lyon frustrated SA with a high-score 30, but it merely delayed the inevitable as Phangiso eventually got his second wicket to bowl Lyon, and with that, the proteas secured the bonus-point victory.