Centuries from AB de Villiers (136*) and Faf du Plessis (106) were integral to South Africa successfully reaching 328 for victory in the second match of the triangular series in Zimbabwe.
Earlier in the day, Aaron Finch top-scored for Australia with 102 at the top of the order as George Bailey’s side amassed 327-7 in their 50 overs. However, they couldn’t defend that high total, largely due to a 206-run stand for the third wicket between de Villiers and du Plessis.
The South African centurions both scored at faster than a run-a-ball as victory was secured for the loss of just three wickets and with more than three overs to spare.
Impressive opening stand
After losing to toss and being put into bat, Australia got off to a flyer. The recently recalled Phillip Hughes repaid the faith shown in him by the selectors with a half-century.
But the left-hander was the first man to fall, bowled by Imran Tahir and caught by de Villiers for 51. With the score at 92-1, fellow opener Finch would continue to occupy one crease for some time to come.
Mitchell Marsh (5) joined him in the middle, but the new batsman soon became Tahir’s second victim of the day.
Highest Aussie partnership
Bailey steadied the ship with his arrival, making 66 and sharing a 114-run stand with the opening batsman. The skipper remained at the crease long enough to see Finch pass 100, but was there to see him fall shortly after.
Finch was caught by JP Duminy off the bowling of Ryan McLaren to make it 229-3.
Australia now had free reign to score as many as possible in the closing overs, having conserved their wickets. It wasn’t long before Bailey had raced past his half-century in an innings that included three maximums.
But Morne Morkel – who soon ousted Glenn Maxwell too – eventually dismissed the captain. The big-hitting Maxwell was unable to replicate the 93 he scored against Zimbabwe earlier in the week, contributing just 7.
A swashbuckling Steve Smith added 31 from 19 balls and Mitchell Johnson smashed a couple of late sixes as Australia reached 327-7 by the end of the 50th over.
South African openers fall
Faced with the prospect of scoring at more than a run-a-ball throughout to secure victory, South Africa’s challenge was made even more difficult by the early fall of both of their opening batsmen.
Quinton de Kock (19) and Hashim Amla (24) both departed the innings early on to leave the Proteas 51-2. However, that assembled the dream team of du Plessis and de Villiers at the crease.
Both men scored at a blistering pace to swing the game’s momentum back in the direction of de Villiers’ team.
Mitchell Starc (2-62) had the most success with the ball for the Australians, but he was expensive in his eight overs. It seemed as though none of the Aussie bowlers were safe from the South African batting onslaught.
Du Plessis brought up his maiden century moments before his captain did. However, the number three was undone by a short-pitched Starc delivery to perish on 106.
With the scoreboard reading 257-3, Duminy didn’t have to take too many risks when he came to the middle. The diminutive batsman made an unbeaten 33 from 29 deliveries alongside de Villiers, as the skipper moved onto 136 not out by the time by the time that victory was assured.
Both sides will meet once again in the triangular series next Tuesday.