Disciplined South Africa sweep series
The South Africans continue to dominate the limited-overs formats. Having usurped Australia for top place in the 50-over rankings last year, South Africa now head to the World Twenty20 brimming with confidence after a second consecutive 20-over victory over Ricky Ponting's men, this time by 17 runs.
The Australians seldom appeared comfortable in pursuit of South Africa's 156 for 5 on a pitch that troubled batsmen from both sides of the Indian Ocean. Michael Clarke (27 runs from 33 balls) struggled to combat South Africa's disciplined lines, while Ricky Ponting was dismissed for a solitary run for the second time in three days; this time to a well-angled delivery from debutant paceman Yusuf Abdulla.
Hardly an ideal start. But the fatal sequence for Australia was saved for the eleventh over, delivered by the ever-effective Johan Botha, who must surely rank among the world's finest Twenty20 bowlers at present. Clarke was bowled attempting to sweep the first ball of the South African captain's second over, and Callum Ferguson - following a dreadful mix-up with David Hussey - was run out the next delivery, in a carbon copy of Michael Hussey's dismissal on Friday.
Thereafter, the tourists were never in the hunt. Roelef van der Merwe, who previously blasted 48 from 30 deliveries to provide impetus to the South African innings, claimed the vital wicket of Hussey to end the Australian charge. And when Johann Louw removed James Hopes and Nathan Bracken in the final over of the innings, the Australians found themselves marooned at 139 for 8 and facing a comprehensive tactical and selection overhaul ahead of the World Twenty20 in June.
The South Africans, conversely, are in rude health in both 50 and 20-over cricket. Despite fielding an experimental XI with four changes from Friday's comprehensive four-wicket victory at the Wanderers, the hosts encountered few problems in sealing victory after van der Merwe's violent innings.
Like several of his top-order counterparts, not least JP Duminy, van der Merwe was effectively handcuffed by the Australians for the majority of the evening. With eyes wide, head skywards and bat thrashing to all points of the compass, the right-hander whiffed and edged his way to 15 from his first 17 deliveries before eventually finding his range.
Nathan Bracken was first to suffer at the hands of van der Merwe, watching forlornly as his third over - the 16th of the innings - disappeared for 23 runs. Ben Laughlin also felt the brunt of van der Merwe's fearsome swinging, conceding 12 runs from the ensuing over. It might not have been pretty - several of his sixes disappeared over the point fence when, in fact, van der Merwe had looked to play over midwicket - but the sheer ferocity of his strokeplay turned mis-hits into sixes, and drove his side towards a respectable total.
His outing was by far the brightest of the South African innings. In all, the Australian bowlers combined for 50 dot-balls as placement was all but overlooked in the quest for power; a facet of the South African game that Mickey Arthur will no doubt seek to address in the weeks and months to come. But with Australia's top-order struggling to find its feet at Twenty20 level, the hosts' total would always prove challenging. And with Botha at the height of his spin-bowling powers, it eventually proved impossible.
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo