Faced with their toughest chase of the series, Australia once again timed their charge to win by two-wickets in Sydney on Sunday.
The opening pair of David Warner and Aaron Finch got their chase of 281 off to a flier. Warner fell for the cause, but Finch went on to get 67-ball 76 before being brilliantly caught on the boundary.
The dismissal of Finch ended a 100-run partnership with Shane Watson, who went on to make a significant score after looking good all series. He was brutal on anything over-pitched on his way to 82 off 93 balls.
If South Africa were going to pull off a consolation victory, they would have to get rid of Steve Smith early. He struggled to find his timing and gave the Proteas plenty of chances. Kyle Abbott bowled him for 20, but a replay showed that it was a no-ball. Morne Morkel then got a regulation edge through to the keeper, but the appeal wasn’t convincing and Smith got another life-line on 32. He made the most of his luck, finishing on 67 off 74 balls.
Smith walked off with just 11 runs required for victory. The middle-order had a little wobble, but knocked them off to claim a two-wicket win with five balls to spare. The win not only seals the series 4-1, but also takes Australia to No 1 in the world.
Earlier, the Proteas threatened to once again throw away a great start, but a late blitz took them to an above par 280-6 in Sydney on Sunday. Stand in captain Hashim Amla won the toss and elected to bat first. He added 54 for the first wicket with Quinton de Kock before being caught behind for 18. Rilee Rossouw walked in at No 3, his usual position in domestic cricket, and looked in control from the start.
The two young left-handers flourished, putting on 107 and taking the score to 161 before Rossouw chipped one straight to mid-on. He went for a 71-ball 51, his first half-century in ODI’s. His departure seemed to spark the middle-order collapse that has plagued South Africa throughout the series, as Faf du Plessis and David Miller departed for two and five, respectively.
At the other end, De Kock brought up his maiden ODI century on Australian soil. He eventually fell for 107 off 123 deliveries to leave the scoreboard reading 206-5 in the 41st over. Farhaan Behardien and Wayne Parnell were both new at the crease and a repeat of their dismal last 10 overs in Melbourne looked on the cards.
Behardien stood up to be counted, mirroring what he’s done successfully for the Titans, smashing 63 off just 41 balls at the death. Parnell played the supporting role, finishing on 18 not out off 21 balls. Their efforts in the last nine overs propelled the total to a defendable 280-6.