Australia v South Africa, 1st ODI, Melbourne January 16, 2009

Powerplay ponderings for Ponting

Albie Morkel's 18-ball 40 during South Africa's Powerplay, towards the end of the run-chase, was instrumental in the three-wicket win for the visitors © Getty Images

The first one-day international in Australia to feature a batting Powerplay ended with the new rule contributing to the home team's demise. A win that South Africa's captain Johan Botha described as "massive" came because he and Albie Morkel took full advantage of their five-over selection, which they used to put a chase that had started to founder, back on track.

They took their Powerplay at the start of the 45th over, when they needed 51 from 36 balls with three wickets in hand having just lost the well-set JP Duminy and Neil McKenzie. It was make or break for South Africa and as Morkel found the boundary at will with the field up in his unbeaten 40 from 18 deliveries, it was Australia who were left broken.

Ricky Ponting said before the game that he had spent plenty of time chatting to Australia's domestic players, who have experienced the batting Powerplay at state level, about how best to use it. As Ponting tried to work out where to locate his boundary-riders in the dying stages he was left wishing he had also spent time studying Morkel's batting.

"We hadn't seen a lot of Albie Morkel either, to tell you the truth," Ponting said. "I don't know if we were really as prepared as we could have been to bowl to him in those Powerplay overs at the end of the game. He hit the ball incredibly cleanly at the end and maybe we could have done some things a little bit better there to make it a little bit more difficult for him."

South Africa picked up 0 for 49 during their batting Powerplay, while Australia had collected 2 for 43. Australia began theirs in the 42nd over with six wickets in hand and the dangerous strikers David Hussey and Cameron White at the crease. But the men seemed to lack urgency during the five overs - both lost their wickets in any case - and Ponting knows that timing his Powerplays will be crucial in future ODIs.

"I contemplated taking it really early today, just after their bowling Powerplay," he said. "The ball was still nice and hard and both Shaun [Marsh] and I were going pretty well."

He also considered using it when the ball changed after 34 overs but Australia had just lost a wicket and the move was postponed. South Africa always planned to use theirs as late as possible, although the No. 9 Botha would have preferred specialist batsmen to be there, instead of him and Morkel. As it happened, it didn't much matter.

The success was particularly pleasing for a South African side that lost both Twenty20s and entered the one-day series as clear underdogs. As much as anything, Botha was happy that the victory would prove to his own players that they could hold their own against the world champions.

"This is massive for us and it shows that we've got some guys that can really fight out there," Botha said. "If we can just sharpen up a little bit in certain areas we probably can have a really good team. This just shows everyone in that changeroom that we can compete on this tour in the one-day tour."

However, he knows how important it is to back up in the second match at Bellerive Oval on Sunday. "I think it's put a little bit [of pressure] back on them," Botha said. "If we play really well in Hobart and we go two up then it'll be massive pressure. But if after this weekend it's one-all then it's all square again, then the pressure is on both teams. Sunday is going to be a huge game for us."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo