In a heavyweight triangular series clash in Harare, Australia emerged victorious by 62 runs over rivals South Africa, despite a fantastic hundred from Faf Du Plessis.
Australia were looking to prove that their shock loss to Zimbabwe was just a blip as they continued their World Cup preparations. Since that defeat they had also been dealt a
further blow with India knocking the Aussies from the top of the ICC ODI rankings.
Having won the toss and deciding to field first South Africa were looking to continue
their 100% unbeaten record in the triangular series between Australia, Zimbabwe and themselves.
However, it was Australia who began the game the better of the two sides as openers Aaron Finch (16) and Philip Hughes (85) posted an opening stand of 46 before Finch was dismissed by Ryan McLaren. A second wicket stand of 85 by Hughes and Steve Smith (36) gave Australia a sound platform from which to build a substantial innings.
However, South Africa hit back as the Australians were reduced from 131-1 to 187-5 as the Proteas looked to take control of the game.
Mitchell Marsh had other ideas as he bludgeoned a fantastic unbeaten 86 from just 51
balls, hitting five fours and seven sixes, as he catapulted Australia to a more than competitive 282-7 after their 50-overs.
Newcomer Aaron Phangiso (2-39) was the pick of the South African bowlers as their feared bowling attack lacked their usual penetration.
In reply, South Africa constantly lost wickets from the outset.
Their innings began badly when Quinton De Kock was dismissed by Glenn Maxwell for one with just nine runs on the board. Despite a star batting line-up none of the South African top order could make an innings of note, with the exception of Faf Du Plessis.
Du Plessis watched on from the non-striker's end as wickets tumbled to leave South Africa floundering on 101-5. However, whilst Du Plessis was still at the crease there was still a chance of victory and he found a willing partner in Ryan Mclaren (24) who helped take the score up to 174 before he was the sixth wicket to fall.
Meanwhile Du Plessis continued his fantastic innings as he single-handedly tried to take
on the Aussies. Despite his heroics he finally fell with the score on 214-8 and with it South Africa's hopes ended. Du Plessis' innings of 126 was a fantastic advert for ODI cricket, coming off just 109 balls, and hitting eight fours and six sixes in the process.
South Africa were always up with the required rate but their constant loss of wickets, and failure to support Du Plessis, was their downfall as they slumped to 220 all out and a defeat by 62 runs.
Marsh capped off a fine all-round display for Australia with bowling figures of 2-23 to accompany his unbeaten innings of 86 earlier in the day. Mitchell Johnson (2-30), Glenn
Maxwell (2-22) and Kane Richardson (2-38) were also prominent with the ball.
The final game of the triangular series is on Thursday as Zimbabwe take on South Africa, again in Harare, before the final on Saturday. Australia now top the group and barring a
minor miracle will play South Africa again in Saturday's final.
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