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April 5, 2009
A brutal new-ball effort from Wayne Parnell and Dale Steyn set up a comprehensive seven-wicket win for South Africa that levelled the five-match series 1-1 in Centurion. The first game in Durban was described as a one-sided victory to Australia but it was a nail-biter compared to this non-competition.
The result was all but decided after the first 44 balls of the match. Parnell and Steyn were so destructive in their opening spells that after 7.2 overs Australia had collapsed to 19 for 5 and even the most die-hard Australian fans were battling to conjure up a scenario in which they would be celebrating at the end of the day.
Callum Ferguson provided Australia with brief respite from the demolition in posting 50, the second half-century of his six-match ODI career, but it was all academic. When the last man was out in the 41st over Australia had only 131 on the board and it was their lowest first-innings total in a non-reduced 50-over one-day international.
Not surprisingly, the South Africans reached their target with a minimum of fuss, with seven wickets in hand and 23.4 overs to spare. Mitchell Johnson picked up two wickets that along with his one-day career-best score of 30 meant he could hold his head up, but solid contributions from Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis ensured the victory was not in doubt.
South Africa had their bowlers to thank. After Ricky Ponting chose to bat the wickets tumbled so quickly that gloves and helmets must have been flying around the Australian dressing room as the padding-up players raced to keep up with the attrition rate. There were a few loose shots but mostly the cause of the damage was the fast, accurate and swinging deliveries from Steyn and Parnell.
In his second ODI, the Man of the Match Parnell was terrifically impressive in picking up three wickets from his first spell and he returned to help clean up the tail and finished with 4 for 25. He accounted for both Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey with fullish, swinging deliveries that the batsmen couldn't lay bat on and both were rightly judged lbw.
Parnell also enticed Ponting into an expansive drive outside off that was edged behind, a similarly unnecessary shot to the attempted slash from David Hussey, who had struggled to 1 from 12 balls when he was caught behind off Steyn. It was Steyn who had started the carnage when he removed Brad Haddin, who played on flashing outside off from the sixth ball of the game.
The five early wickets left the fans wondering whether the day match would get far beyond lunch but Ferguson and Johnson led a recovery process that pushed Australia past their lowest ODI total of 70, a mark that had been in danger. The pair added 63 for the seventh wicket before Johnson was trapped brilliantly by a Johan Botha doosra.
Ferguson showed maturity in his 83-ball 50 but when he fended a brute of a bouncer from Steyn to point the end for Australia was nigh. One more wicket each to Parnell and Steyn, who ended up with 4 for 27, and the destruction was complete.
Johnson's removal of Herschelle Gibbs, who drove to cover, in the third over of the chase gave Australia a glimmer of hope but Smith and Kallis kept the hosts on track with a 69-run stand that confirmed that there weren't any demons in the pitch. Ben Laughlin enjoyed the second wicket of his ODI career when his slower ball duped Smith into a skied drive for 40 but AB de Villiers and JP Duminy guided South Africa home with ease.
It meant the match wrapped up two hours ahead of the scheduled finish. Perhaps the Australians could find an earlier flight to Cape Town ahead of Thursday's third ODI. They'll certainly be keen to put Centurion behind them as quickly as possible. The only problem is that Parnell and Steyn will follow them.