Morkel blasts South Africa to 2-1 lead
Albie Morkel destroyed Australia in the dying stages for the second time in the series as he powered South Africa to a three-wicket win and a 2-1 lead. Morkel built on the solid work of Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis to guide the highest successful ODI chase at the SCG and put a slight dampener on the Sydney crowd's day after the fans had been thrilled by their local hero David Warner during the Australian innings.
Morkel fell five short of the target of 270 when he skied Nathan Hauritz to long-on but his 40 from 22 balls had done the job and he had already slammed Hauritz for a six and a pair of fours over midwicket in the same over. Again it was the batting Powerplay that haunted Australia as Morkel and Mark Boucher took 1 for 41 from the five overs beginning at the start of the 41st.
They were so productive that they got home with 21 balls to spare, despite a superb return of 1 for 29 from nine overs for Nathan Bracken. None of his bowling colleagues had the same effect - Mitchell Johnson was particularly expensive in his first match back with 1 for 71 from nine - and it was a surprisingly one-sided result in the end after Australia had South Africa worried at 5 for 163.
Things had started better for the visitors. After Australia relied on their youngest man Warner to set up their total, South Africa leaned on their two oldest stagers to get the chase off to a flyer. Gibbs and Kallis combined for a 96-run partnership that took them to a terrifically strong 1 for 125 in the 19th over.
Gibbs in particular was highly entertaining, racing to 64 from 52 deliveries as he continued to try and re-establish his place in the side following his lay-off for alcohol rehabilitation. He was especially defiant against the speed of Shaun Tait and slapped him down the ground for a pair of boundaries early in the fast man's first spell.
A cleanly-struck six over cover off Johnson was exquisite and when Tait returned he walked at him and powered a couple of boundaries through the off side. Gibbs' half-century came from 36 balls and he was making Australia pay for dropping him in the first over, when he drove at Tait and was spilled by David Hussey diving forward at backward point.
It was the second grassed chance in the opening over, after Ricky Ponting put down a simple chance at second slip off Hashim Amla. The fielding coach Mike Young breathed a sigh of relief when Gibbs was finally caught by Michael Hussey at slip. It was a strange shot from Gibbs, who guided Johnson straight to Hussey, almost as if he was unaware the man was in place and was looking for easy runs to third man.
His departure left Kallis in charge of the chase and he was doing it comfortably having enjoyed a celebration earlier in the innings when he became the eighth man and the first South African to reach 10,000 one-day international runs. Kallis compiled a calm 60 from 72 balls and took few risks but when he edged Tait behind, South Africa were in trouble at five down.
More danger was to come when Neil McKenzie was run out attempting a second and was caught short by a brilliantly quick release from Warner in the outfield. It seemed that in his first international appearance in front of his home crowd in Sydney, everything Warner touched turned to gold.
He entered the match under pressure to prove he was not a one-hit wonder having blasted 89 on his Twenty20 international debut 12 days ago. Warner's 69 from 60 balls featured clean strikes from the outset and an early vicious pull for six over midwicket off Dale Steyn would have comfortably fitted into his Twenty20 highlights package.
Warner was equally strong through the off side and punched a couple of cracking drives forward of point. He was so dominant that when the half-century opening partnership came up he had made 43 compared to Shaun Marsh's 6.
His fifty came from 41 deliveries with a single clipped to leg off Kallis and he followed by taking Kallis for a super drive over mid-off for four and a pull over square leg for six. Warner also showed his cricketing brain by taking 21 singles and it was only when his stumps were rattled as he tried to clear mid-on with a hefty heave off Steyn that his fireworks were extinguished.
Australia's problem was that whereas Warner had moved at top speed, the rest of the order settled for a strolling pace. Marsh contributed 43 from 63 balls and James Hopes and David Hussey made scores in the 30s but failed to move things quickly, and it was a strong fightback from South Africa, who had initially been looking at a potential 300-plus chase.
They were led admirably by their captain Johan Botha, who collected 3 for 32 and was easily the most difficult man to get away. He picked up the crucial wicket of Ponting, who chipped to short midwicket having raced to 29, and he also removed Marsh and Brad Haddin. Fittingly, it was Botha who later struck the winning boundary, and confirmed the 2-1 advantage for a team that entered the series as the underdogs.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo