South Africa let slip a winning position to collapse to a 36-run defeat to Australia in the Tri-nations series, in St Kitts on Saturday.
Having restricted the Australians to 288-6 after they chose to bat, the Proteas were cruising along at 140-1 with Hashm Amla and Faf du Plessis seemingly in full control. They were easily covering the required run-rate as they put on 105 in 18 overs following the fall of Quinton de Kock for 19 in the eighth over.
Then Amla drove Josh Hazlewood straight to Steve Smith in the covers for 60 (64 balls, 6×4, 1×6) and then, six overs later, Du Plessis, back in the side after injury, chased a wide one and holed out to backward point off Mitchell Starc. He had comfortably run up 63 with just five fours.
The nail in the coffin came when the ball started reversing and Hazlewood got one to nip through past AB de Villiers’ extravagant drive to hit middle stump for 39 off 32, just as he was starting to accelerate.
Suddenly, the South Africans were 210-4 after 39 overs. It then became a procession, with six wickets going down for 42 runs. Only JP Duminy put up a fight with 41 off 39.
The Proteas bowlers had played their part in setting up such a favourable target on a flat track, despite Dave Warner hitting his first ODI century outside Australia (109). He had good support from Usman Khawaja (59) and an unbeaten 52 from Steve Smith which helped put on 90 in the last 10 overs.
Wayne Parnell (1-34) and Kyle Abbott (1-50) were outstanding, well backed by the spin of Aaron Phangiso, Imran Tahir and JP Duminy.
Only Kagiso Rabada really suffered, blowing hot and cold and eventually going for 1-66 off eight.
Warner, though, was in imperious form, even if he wasn’t able to break the shackles as much as he wanted. But he and Khawaja added 136 in 24 overs to establish a solid platform after Aaron Finch had fall in the 10th over with just 48 on the board. The return of Parnell brought the much-needed relief as Warner pulled powerfully, straight to Amla at midwicket, just after registering his century, with 11 fours and two sixes.
Khawaja followed shortly after, top-edging a sweep off Phangiso to short fine leg … and that after being given a huge let-off when AB de Villiers dropped a sitter at midwicket off Tahir. But Khawaja had done a decent job, running up 59 off 71 balls (4×4, 1×6).
Smith’s innings proved invaluable as he put on 34 in 18 balls with Matthew Wade (24). Even then, it did not seem enough.