Proteas power to victory over Australia

28 August 2014

The Proteas staged a magnificent run chase to haul in a challenging target, beating Australia by seven wickets with 20 balls to spare in the second match of a triangular one-day series at Harare Sports Club in Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

“I think the most important thing is the hunger we play with,” South African captain AB de Villiers said at the post-match awards’ ceremony.

“I’ve seen a lot of hunger, especially in Sri Lanka with our last series. That is what defines a cricket team to me, when we show hunger in the field and hunger to win. I was very pleased to see that hunger again today.”

Outstanding partnership

The highlight of the win was an outstanding partnership of 206 between De Villiers and Faf du Plessis, which was a third wicket record for South Africa against the Aussies.

De Villiers finished the contest undefeated on 136, while Du Plessis departed after scoring 106, his first one-day international century.

“I’m very, very happy with that batting performance. I haven’t scored a lot of runs of late and to get a few here today was very pleasing,” the South African skipper said modestly. “I had my chances, I have to mention that. But that is part of the game, you get dropped sometimes. Luckily I made it count and I was there at the end to see us through for our first win of the series.”

Australian innings

It was a convincing victory in the end, but a decision by De Villiers to bowl first after he won the toss looked suspect as the Australians got away to a strong start, with Phil Hughes and Aaron Finch putting on 92 for the first wicket before Hughes fell for 51 off 63 balls.

Finch pushed on to top score with 102 from 116 deliveries, while George Bailey weighed in with 66 off of just 53 balls, with three sixes and three fours, to help Australia to an intimidating 327 for 7 in their 50 overs.

Imran Tahir, with a haul of 2 for 45 in his 10 overs, was the pick of the South African bowling attack, while Morne Morkel and Ryan McLaren picked up two wickets apiece.

Spot of bother

Faced with a tough batting task, the Proteas were in a spot of bother early on when they slipped to 51 for 2 in the ninth over, with Quinton de Kock out for 19 and Hashim Amla for 24. The departure of the openers, however, brought Du Plessis and De Villiers together and they proceeded to compile a superb stand, which lasted 29 overs and took South Africa to within sight of victory.

Du Plessis eventually fell for 106 when he failed to middle a pull off of the bowling of Mitchell Starc and was caught. His innings included 11 fours and one six.

De Villiers, despite struggling with cramp, played an amazing innings, which was highlighted by how much time he appeared to have to score runs off of anything the Australian bowlers threw at him. In the kind of form he exhibited on Wednesday in Harare, there is not a more devastating or better batsman in world cricket.

Morale-boosting victory

Together with JP Duminy, who finished with a valuable 33 not out off 29 balls, the South African skipper guided his side to a morale-boosting victory in the 47th over. His unbeaten 136, the second highest score by a South African against Australian, behind only Herschelle Gibbs’ 175 in the “438 game”, included 11 fours and two sixes and came from only 106 balls. He was a slam-dunk choice for man of the match.

“We certainly had enough runs on the board and probably created enough chances to win the game, but hats off to Faf and AB, two extraordinary innings, and you have to say well played to South Africa,” Australian captain George Bailey said afterwards.

‘An amazing knock’

De Villiers said two of his players had shone. “First of all, Faf, with an amazing knock. I know he has had a bit of a rough start to his ODI career, but he’s in magnificent form and one of our bankers at the moment, especially in this ODI team. It brings a lot of calmness. He batted so well today.

“The other guy is Imran Tahir. He stood out with the ball in hand. I’m very proud of him, especially [that he excelled] against the Aussies, who don’t take a lot of nonsense from spinners, so for him to have bowled like he did was very pleasing for all of us.”

‘A great effort’

Du Piessis, in an on-field interview just after the game, said the Proteas could play at an even higher level. “There is a lot we can learn from this game. We weren’t at our best,” he reckoned. “The chase was obviously a great effort, but there are still a lot of areas where we can improve.”

Finishing on an optimistic note, he concluded: “To chase down 330 against Australia, we’re a very happy team.”