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South Africa v Australia, Twenty20, Johannesburg

Smith powers South Africa to victory

The Bulletin by Jenny Thompson

February 24, 2006

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South Africa 201 for 4 (Smith 89*, Gibbs 56) beat Australia 199 for 7 (Lee 43*) by two runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details



Graeme Smith hits out - and then some © Getty Images
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South Africa dressed like butchers for this Twenty20 match, wearing bottle-green tops, lined with a thin yellow pinstripe at inch-wide sections. They batted like butchers, too, Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs carving out a brutal 201 for 4 in their 20 overs - which proved too much for Australia. At last, some relief for the home side against a team who has had the upper hand for a while.

Brett Lee and Brad Hogg put together a spirited seventh-wicket stand of 57 but although they took Australia towards some respectability, the visitors' necks were always on the block the instant Andrew Hall delivered an early double blow. The same bowler held his nerve in the penultimate over before Makhaya Ntini finished things off with a cool final six balls.

Victory was sweet for Smith, who had declared before this match that he was going to take this game seriously. He did, too, bludgeoning an unbeaten 89 from 58 balls of mayhem; his score including 11 fours and a six. He and Gibbs took just 69 balls to put on 111 for their second wicket, with the ever-classy Gibbs making 56 from 34 balls. It was a statement of intent - and execution - from the pair, who didn't have the best of times in Australia.

South Africa had the best of times tonight, though, once the game got underway after a two-hour rain delay. They lost Loots Bosman early on, but from there on Smith and Gibbs took charge, bossing the innings in commanding style. They never looked back. The team's batting wasn't so meaty to begin with - with Smith and Bosman toe-edging some cunning Australia awayswingers - but the team racked up a redblooded total, their blows becoming evermore brutally elegant.

These conditions were made for swing - there was moisture in the air, the lights were on and Brett Lee was making himself right at home. For a brief while at least. Lewis may have grabbed two of the four wickets to fall, cleaning up Bosman for a handy 23 off 18 balls and trapping Gibbs for 56, but Lee piled on the pressure in the early stages.

Then Bosman fell. But that's when the fun really started for South Africa and a super-charged, sell-out crowd, with Gibbs and Smith taking on allcomers and eventually finding their groove, and then some.

And the wheels came right off Australia's fielding in the latter stages, Mick Lewis spilling Gibbs on 41 off Brad Hogg, and the same fielder culpable for another misfield, too. Poor Hogg - he went unrewarded, and for 38, from his two overs.

Smith's brutal batting ensured that Australia had to go for the all-out attack from the off. They set about their task with gusto, but their runs came at a price: a flurry of wickets. Hall was on the button early with two LBWs. He removed first Adam Gilchrist for a second-ball 1 and then Ricky Ponting for 6. The delivery to Gilchrist pitched outside leg and looked high, Ponting had less room for complaint.

Johan van der Wath made a crucial incision of his own, removing Damien Martyn - the man who had done the damage last time these sides met at this level - for 17. Shortly after, a fuller delivery from Roger Telemachus had Simon Katich flapping to Graeme Smith at long off and South Africa were beginning to sense victory. But Australia, fighters to the last, tussled to the end and they wound up just two runs short.

Poor Lee. Batting heroics, two run defeats, lost causes ... This one may not have hurt as much as that Ashes defeat, but neither can it have been much fun for him again. Yet despite his efforts, the momentum was always with the home side, backed by an electrifying crowd.

Ponting, as usual, had come out to say he wasn't taking the match too seriously. In the end, it was just as well.

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo

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