AB de Villiers and David Miller looked as if they would chase down 300, but after their dismissals South Africa slumped to defeat in the first ODI in Perth.
South Africa’s chase got off to a shaky start with Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla falling for two and eight, respectively. Faf du Plessis looked in control before being caught in the leg-side trap for 31. He walked off the field with the scoreboard reading 76-4 in the 16th over.
Miller joined the captain in the middle and needed to bat deep as the last recognised batsmen. After biding their time initially, they started to take control. Each registered a half-century and looked as if they would cruise home.
Miller fell to the first ball of the 37th over for a run-a-ball 65. His departure showed that South Africa were a specialist batsman light as Ryan McLaren and Vernon Philander came and went in quick succession.
The result was put beyond question when Dale Steyn ran out De Villiers for brilliant 76-ball 80. The skipper trudged off knowing that his effort would be in vain. Despite a plucky 10th wicket partnership, South Africa were bowled out for 268 in the 49th over to hand Australia a 32-run victory.
Earlier, Australia set the Proteas 301 for victory. After winning the toss and inserting Australia, David Warner and Aaron Finch got off to a flyer. They reached 94-0 at the beginning of the 15th over before Vernon Philander shifted the momentum of the innings by dismissing both set batsmen off consecutive deliveries.
Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Mitchell Marsh all came and went for less than 15. George Bailey also should have been back in the hut for a single digit score after David Miller and Imran Tahir dropped easy catches in consecutive overs. After riding his luck, it was up to Bailey and Matthew Wade to resurrect the Australian innings.
Bailey survived another two dropped chances, Vernon Philander and Farhaan Behardien being the culprits. The latter appeared to injure his shoulder in the process and was forced to leave the field as a result.
The former Australian T20 skipper started to find his feet and when Faf du Plessis eventually held onto a catch, he had compiled a valuable 75-ball 70. He walked off the field with the scoreboard reading 236-6 after 43.2 overs. Apart from putting on 92 runs with Wade, Bailey had set a solid foundation for the likes of Glenn Maxwell to take advantage of the last six overs.
Tahir completely misjudged a catch on the mid-wicket fence to give Maxwell a life. He took immediate advantage, taking 17 runs off a Dale Steyn over. Morne Morkel got rid of the big-hitter for a 19-ball 29, but his late charge helped Australia reach a very competitive 300-8.
Philander was the pick of the bowlers on a good deck. He made the initial breakthrough and finished with figures of 4-45 in his 10 over ration. His spell is the one that gave South Africa a chance of opening the series with a win.