Despite a valiant effort from Faf du Plessis, the Proteas couldn’t chase down the 283-run target set by Australia.
The chase didn’t go according to plan from the start for the Proteas. Glenn Maxwell was given the new ball and got rid of Quinton de Kock for one. Hashim Amla and Du Plessis then attempted to consolidate, but the former fell in the tenth over to a brilliant one-handed take down the leg side by Brad Haddin. He was on his way for 17, leaving South Africa on 36-2 in the 10th over.
The two heroes from the previous encounter added 28 to the score, before AB de Villiers aggressively swept Nathan Lyon straight to the man saving one at square leg. He had to go for six, leaving South Africa on 64-3 at the drinks break.
The procession of wickets continued after drinks, as JP Duminy paddled a pull straight to fine leg, handing Mitchell Marsh his second scalp. Mitchell Johnson then uprooted David Miller’s stumps to send his IPL teammate packing for three.
After watching the carnage at the other end, Du Plessis finally found a willing partner in the shape of Ryan McLaren. The two put on 73, the biggest stand of the innings, before McLaren was caught at mid-wicket for 24 during the powerplay.
An eventful powerplay also saw Du Plessis bring up his second consecutive ODI hundred against Australia, this one off 94 balls. The five overs yielded 46 runs for the loss of McLaren, ensuring the required rate was under control.
Wickets were the problem for South Africa and when Dale Steyn ran himself out for five, trying to steal a single, the task became improbable. The Proteas were on 206-7 in the 41st over and needed Du Plessis to bat through if they were going to pull it out of the fire.
Du Plessis was the next to go, for a brilliant 109-ball 126. His dismissal, which signaled the end of South Africa’s fight was unfortunate as he trod on his stumps while manipulating the ball into the leg side.
After the departure of Du Plessis, the tail was mopped up quickly. South Africa were dismissed for 220, condemning them to a 62-run defeat.
The bonus point victory for Australia means that the Proteas will have to bounce back and beat Zimbabwe in their last match of the Triangular series to ensure they have the opportunity of exacting revenge on Australia in the final on Saturday.
Earlier, Marsh’s unbeaten 86 ruined a lot of the good work done by the South African bowlers and took Australia to a competitive total on the slow Harare surface.
De Villiers won the toss and inserted Australia. Aaron Finch struggled in the beginning, while Phil Hughes was fluent at the other end. Finch’s laboured innings ended as he hit a McLaren delivery straight to deep cover. He went for 16, but used 36 balls to get there.
Smith and Hughes laid the foundation of the innings. They ran rapidly between the wickets, turning ones into twos and capitalised on every available quick single. They worked the spinners around and scored at a healthy rate.
Hughes continued his incredible record against the Proteas, bringing up his fifty off 51 balls and overcoming his spin demons on a slow pitch. The partnership was eventually ended on 85, as Imran Tahir induced the edge. De Kock held onto a good catch and Smith was on his way for a 62-ball 36.
The arrival of Maxwell prompted the powerplay to be taken in the very next over, the 31st. The ploy proved unsuccessful as he fell for just two in the first over of the field restrictions. George Bailey came to the wicket at No 5, but the impetus the men in yellow hoped to gain from the powerplay wasn’t to be. Hughes chipped Aaron Phangiso to long-on to depart for 85 and cap a poor powerplay. The five over period yielded just 20 runs and claimed two wickets.
Phangiso then got the important wicket of the captain in the 43rd over. Bailey charged down the pitch, was beaten by the spin and De Kock did the rest. He went for 32, leaving Australia in a precarious position at 187-5.
Marsh took advantage of the short straight boundaries, clearing them with ease in the last few overs. Steyn in particular came in for some punishment, conceding 21 off the 47th over. The single to retain the strike off the last ball of the over brought up Marsh’s fifty off just 37 balls.
The big all-rounder continued to enjoy himself until the end, finishing on 86 off 51 deliveries. His display of power hitting at the death propelled Australia to a very competitive 282-7.
Report compiled by Gareth Stevens.