A pair of centuries from David Warner and skipper Steve Smith guided Australia to 371-6 in the third ODI at Kingsmead.
A major point of concern from Australia’s first two matches was the lack of performances from their senior players. With their depleted, inexperienced bowling attacks failing to deliver the goods, the least they could have hoped for was the top order to help them along. That finally happened in their must-win match in Kingsmead, with centuries from two of their most accomplished players, David Warner and Steve Smith.
Their respective tons took them to the highest ODI score ever at Kingsmead, beating the 351-4 Pakistan set against the Proteas back in 2007. If the hosts want to win this game, and indeed with that the series, they are going to have to absolutely smash the highest chase on the east coast, when Australia successfully tracked down 271 way back in 2002. It was just the second time against South Africa that two Aussies scored tons in the same match, Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh did it in 2000.
It’s probably good news, then, that Hashim Amla has returned to the side, after being left out of the second ODI despite being fully fit. He was one of two changes to the side, with the injured Wayne Parnell making way for Dwaine Pretorius. Rilee Rossouw, who smashed two fifties at the top in the first two matches, is expected to come in at No 4.
Sent into bowl, Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada had a tough time of it, not enjoying the pacey, bouncy decks that they experienced in Gauteng. They conceded 88 runs in the first 10 overs by the ever-explosive Warner and Aaron Finch.
It can be argued that Imran Tahir should have been brought on earlier to disrupt the momentum. He would be the man to find the breakthrough in the 14th over, as Finch launched one into the sky for 53.
That brought the run rate right back down to 6.5 to the over, with Smith looking to play himself in. At first it appeared detrimental to his side’s cause, but over time the boundaries flowed, and together with Warner, they produced a 124-run stand at just over a run a ball.
Warner would bring up his eight ODI century off 96 balls, before Tahir had his man again in the 35th over, just as he was starting to properly open up his shoulders. That stagnated the run rate somewhat with Andile Phehlukwayo mixing up his pace well, before seeing off George Bailey for 28, for Phehlukwayo’s seventh wicket of the series.
A couple of wickets fell in the last 10 overs as Smith’s knock ended on 107, but the tourists were clinical with their striking, with the likes of Travis Head (29) and Matthew Wade (17) producing some lusty blows. Dale Steyn now holds the unwanted record of the worst ever ODI bowling figures for the Proteas (2-96).
There’s a lot to do for the Proteas to clinch the series, but we’ve seen them do it before in this series and indeed on numerous occasions in the past against Australia, and they will still fancy their chances of tracking this total down against a low-in-confidence Aussie bowling attack.
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