AUSTRALIA bounced back from Sunday’s humiliation at the hands of Zimbabwe in style, sealing a comfortable 62-run cricket win over South Africa at Harare Sports Club yesterday to qualify for Saturday’s tri-series final.
Faf du Plessis’ brilliant innings of 126 from just 109 balls, only his second career century for South Africa proved in vain as his side was bowled out for 220 runs in 44 overs in pursuit of Australia’s 282.
Australia never allowed South Africa to go on top in the run chase with the pace bowling quartet of Mitchell Marsh, Mitchell Johnson, Kane Richardson and Mitchell Starc each taking two wickets.
South Africa had looked seemingly in control after electing to bowl until a late burst young all-rounder Marsh whose blistering knock of 86 off 51 deliveries steered the Aussies to a competitive total.
Marsh led the late onslaught, smashing four boundaries and seven huge sixes as Australia plundered 101 runs in the last 10 overs.
Opener Phil Hughes had initially laid a solid foundation earlier with 85 runs off 92 balls as he shared Australia’s highest partnership of the match of 89 runs with Steven Smith (36).
The rest of the Aussie line-up however struggled to convert their starts with the only other meaningful contribution coming from stand-in skipper George Bailey (32) as South Africa took wickets at regular intervals.
Off-spinner Aaron Pangiso was South Africa’s most impressive bowler taking two wickets for 39 runs in 10 overs.
After chasing down 300 against the same opponents last week, South Africa would have fancied their chances of chasing down 282, but run chase did not get off to an ideal start losing Quinton de Kock for a single run as early as the second over.
Hashim Amla shared a 27-run third wicket partnership stand with Faf de Plessis before he was brilliantly caught behind by Brad Haddin for just 27 runs.
South Africa were left facing a huge task when their prolific skipper AB de Villiers – the hero of last week’s win swept Nathan Lyon straight to George Bailey at backward square leg to depart for just six runs.
Although Faf du Plessis reached his 50 off just 57 deliveries in the 24th over, South Africa already had their backs against the wall having lost JP Duminy cheaply for just 16 runs in the previous over.
South Africa lost their fifth wicket with just 102 runs on the board when a fired up Mitchell Johnson clean bowled David Miller (3) with a very quick short of length delivery which swung from outside off stump.
Although wickets kept tumbling around him Faf du Plessis continued to grow in confidence, reaching his second career ODI century from just 94 deliveries with South Africa still needing 102 runs from the last 12 overs.
Ryan McLaren (24) stuck around for a 73-run partnership with Du Plessis, but when the latter dislodged his stumps while playing a back foot shot, Australia easily cleaned up the tail to seal a convincing win.
Stand-in skipper George Bailey said he was delighted with the win and praised Marsh for helping them post a competitive total.
“Very happy today. Luckily some great hitting form Marsh helped us put up a pretty competitive score. We were probably near the par total. We lost Hughes and myself at key times and Marsh got us to a big total,” he said.