Positives were far and few between for captain AB de Villiers, as South Africa fell to a 73-run defeat at the hands of Australia in Wednesday’s third ODI at the Manuka Oval in Canberra.
Beaten in the series opener and triumphant in the second match, the Proteas’ seesaw campaign continued with a substandard performance that will demand a prompt turnaround in Friday’s fourth fixture at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Australians’ decision to bat first after winning the toss resulted in a hefty final total of 329 for five, built on the back of a fine century from opener Aaron Finch and complementary half-tons from the left-handed David Warner and right-handed Steven Smith.
No South African bowler, bar the relatively cheap Dale Steyn, were spared expense. The tall Morne Morkel, in fact, copped all of 84 runs from 10 overs – and fellow new-ball seamer Vernon Philander’s full allotment conceded 70.
‘All of the Australian batters set it up really nicely for them. They never had two new batters at the crease at any time, so it was a really well-constructed innings from them. Especially Smith, to finish like that on a slow wicket was an impressive performance,’ said De Villiers.
‘We bowled too many extras. There were small basics that we got wrong, which cost us the game. If we were chasing 290 or 300, maximum, we could have handled it a lot differently. We would have approached the situation differently. Unfortunately we lacked a little bit there I feel.’
The Proteas’ pursuit enjoyed a flourishing start, as openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock resurrected some waning form with a superb 108-run stand inside 19 overs.
De Kock’s departure, though, sparked a collapse that saw nine wickets fall for 148 runs. Tail-ender Imran Tahir did not bat due to a knee injury. De Villiers refused to go down without a steely fight en route to a standalone, quickfire 52 from 34 deliveries – but little to no support through the middle order eventually pushed the tourists to a severely inadequate 256 all out in 44.3 overs.
The 17th ton of Amla’s prolific ODI career, meanwhile, went in vain. The veteran right-hander’s 102 spanned 119 balls and featured nine fours, before Josh Hazlewood’s characteristically dangerous line and length struck in the 39th over.
‘Hashim and I had a nice partnership there, we got a bit of momentum but, unfortunately, I got out to a silly shot. I would have loved to have taken it past 40 overs. I always felt like, with 10 overs to go, if we had a few wickets in hand we would have had a good chance. Unfortunately we lost our way,’ added De Villiers.
‘Hashim is only ever out of form for a short period of time. It’s great to see him batting well again and scoring big runs for us. When he is scoring runs we always have a chance of winning games. It is always difficult on these types of decks, which are a lot slower, with a little bit of reverse swing and a softer green ball, which is difficult to see.
‘When you have two new batters at the crease the run-rate is always going to slow down a bit and unfortunately we lost our way. We are getting five games in different conditions all the time. The conditions here were completely opposite to what we got in Perth. It made the toss a lot more important, we would have liked to bat first but that is by no means an excuse.’