Farhaan Behardien scored his fifth ODI fifty to save South Africa’s blushes after they slipped to 112 for 6 in their first meeting against Australia in the triangular series. But his effort only resulted in them posting one more run than they did four days ago against West Indies when South Africa were bowled out for 188. It would be scant consolation that they batted out fifty overs.
Australia’s attack did not need a mystery spinner like Sunil Narine, who had forced South Africa into a middle-order meltdown on Friday. Instead, they relied on their quicks to knock over the top order. Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Coulter-Nile dealt with South Africa’s best batsmen by sticking to the basics: pitching it up and not allowing any width before the supporting bowlers kept things quiet against a long tail.
After batting consultant Neil McKenzie had called for thick skins and strike rotation, South Africa managed little of either. Their big players – Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers – let their defences down before they made an impact and South Africa scored four fewer singles, 95, compared to the 99 in the opener.
South Africa began in circumspect fashion on the same surface they had played on Friday. Hazlewood troubled Amla with a opening over full of balls that swerved into him. One of them could have had Amla out lbw but Umpire Joel Wilson was not convinced.
De Kock got the run-scoring underway with a crisp drive down the ground, one of only nine fours South Africa found. De Kock also hit one of the only two sixes of the innings when he dispatched Coulter-Nile over midwicket. De Kock, however, could not push on.
Hazlewood reviewed an lbw appeal against de Kock, which was given not out but replays showed that the ball would have hit the leg stump.
Nathan Lyon arrived in the eighth over and had success in the 10th, when he had Rilee Rossouw rapped on the front pad. The on-field out decision was reviewed by the No.3 batsman in vain, and de Villiers was once again required to do a repair job.
De Villiers and Amla combined for South Africa’s highest partnership – 40 – and looked the best option to set South Africa up for a healthy total. They rotated strike better than any other pair, but also took risks, albeit in subtle ways. Amla repeatedly stole ground at the non-striker’s end and eventually, it cost him. He was halfway down the track when Steven Smith swooped in on a ball de Villiers hit to him and threw to the non-striker’s end where Aaron Finch ran Amla out for 35 in the 19th over.
JP Duminy’s hopes of building the recovery with de Villiers were dashed when four overs after his arrival, de Villiers’ was beaten by a full ball from Coulter-Nile which removed his offstump. Duminy fell in a similar fashion, failing to get his bat down in time to keep out a Coulter-Nile delivery that straightened on him from outside off. Duminy’s run without an ODI half-century has stretched back eight innings to July 2015 and his dismissal today, gave Australia a glimpse into the tail.
Wayne Parnell could not replicate his domestic form with the bat as a Hazlewood delivery snuck under his bat and bowled him. This meant that it was up to Behardien to prevent South Africa from being bowled out.
Aaron Phangiso was promoted above Kagiso Rabada to No.8 and did his bit by hanging around. Phangiso faced 40 balls and survived a review when Smith thought Adam Zampa had him lbw, but he eventually holed out to long-off in the 42nd over.
Behardien had only inched his way to 38 at that point and with not much batting to come knew he had to finish strongly. His aggression was misdirected when he offered Hazlewood a return catch in his final over and survived as the bowler put it down, despite getting both hands to the ball. Behardien went on to reach his fifty off 75 balls when he smacked Zampa for six over midwicket. He took his team to the last over before he was bowled by Glenn Maxwell for 62. (ESPNcricinfo)
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent