David Miller struck 118 not out to inspire the Proteas to their first ODI series victory against Australia since 2009.
With just four wickets in hand and the required run rate rising to 10 an over, a victory for South Africa in Durban looked unlikely, but David Miller, battling with cramp and fighting for his place in the side, produced the best knock of his international career to get his side over the line, accompanied by a spirited Andile Phehlukwayo.
The records had already tumbled when Australia posted 371-6. They posted the highest total ever at Kingsmead and Dale Steyn recorded the worst ODI figures ever by a South African. The damage was done from the two players that really needed to step up in a depleted side, as skipper Steve Smith (108) and David Warner (117) both scored centuries.
Nothing, however, was going to stop the Proteas from believing that they could go one better. Miller had only struck two ODI centuries before this, against Zimbabwe and West Indies. This was the chance for him to prove his worth to the side after being dropped for the Tri Nation series back in July. After finding some form for SA A, he duly delivered to ensure that the Proteas secured the second-highest run chase of all time. We all know what the highest was.
It couldn’t have been done without the steely nerves of Phehlukwayo, who struggled to middle it at first, before unleashing in clinical fashion, proving a worthy foil to Miller’s brilliance with an equally match-winning 42 not out, proving his worth as an excellent all-round prospect.
The chase got off to the best possible start thanks to Hashim Amla, brought back into the side after missing the second match despite being fit. He flayed the boundary on numerous occasions – nine times in all – in a brutal 66-run stand with Quinton de Kock.
Amla dominated proceedings but he would be the first to go for 45 off 30 balls. De Kock took charge from there as he built up a good stand with skipper Faf du Plessis, but pushing on from good starts was becoming a growing concern as Du Plessis departed for 33.
At the time, it appeared all hopes pinned on De Kock, with expectations soaring after his 178 in the first ODI. When he skied one to fall for 70 the nerves crept in, compounded when Rilee Rossouw attempted a reverse sweep off Adam Zampa – reminiscent of the first match – to be trapped lbw for 18.
JP Duminy (20) and Dwaine Pretorius (15) failed to really get going as Miller fought a lone battle. When Miller pulled up with cramp, the chances of a Proteas victory looked increasingly slim, but then Phehlukwayo strode to the crease.
Miller was on 62 when the 20-year-old all-rounder joined him in the middle. It was in the 44th over when a victory for the hosts looked a real possibility, as Miller hit 14 runs off the over. 72 off 42 became 58 off 36, and with that, the 50-run partnership. As each over went past, the chances increased.
For all of Miller’s excellence, it would be Phehlukwayo to put the seal on the victory with a four and a six off the penultimate over, before a reverse sweep – of all shots – would go for two, sparking wild celebrations from the batsmen and the dressing room alike.
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/Backpage Pix