South Africa has tied the inaugural Super Challenge 2000 series at Melbourne's Colonial Stadium at one match apiece with a eight run win in the third and final match of what has proved to be a very innovative and enjoyable series.
There were several heroes for the visitors, in particular the underrated left arm spinner Nicky Boje, who took 2/29 from ten overs of very accurate left arm spin and was awarded the Man of Series award. He proved difficult to get away in the mid to latter stages of the match and along with skipper Shaun Pollock (2/36 off eight) did some valuable damage during the run chase. Pollock proved again his great ability with the new ball getting the first two wickets while Adam Gilchrist (63 off 67 balls) powered away in the opening stages of Australia's innings.
Curiously right at the death Andrew Hall, who kept very well in the absence of the finger knife slicing Mark Boucher, was called up to bowl the second last over, with 22 needed. He started with a nervous wide but held up well under the pressure to concede only eight off the over and this left the Aussies needing 14 off the last.
Jacques Kallis took the ball and after a smiling conversation involving he and skipper Pollock, South Africa wrapped up the match with a bit to spare.
Earlier, South Africa were in desperate trouble at 4/19 in the seventh over, after great opening spells by Glenn McGrath (3/26 off ten overs) and Brett Lee (3/56 off ten).
McGrath was first to strike, finding the edge of Andrew Hall's (1) bat and Mark Waugh accepted the hot head high chance at second slip.
At the Latrobe Street end, Brett Lee, who started to find his rhythm after an early speight of no balls, struck twice in his third over, having Kallis edge a lifting ball through to Gilchrist for three and then Daryl Cullinan went, bowled between bat and pad by a very sharp in dipper for a fourth ball duck. The veteran right-hander will come away from his Colonial Stadium experience was little fondness for it after a pair of noughts in the last two matches. South Africa were now 3/19 as Neil McKenzie walked out to join the experienced Kirsten.
McGrath knocked over Kirsten (9) thanks again to the safe hands of Mark Waugh at second slip and at 4/19 the 15,000 odd that had bothered to make it for the 10am start were facing a free afternoon.
South Africa have come from the depths of these positions before to win matches and today the men who rose to the challenge with the bat were Neil McKenzie (45) and Lance Klusener (49) who added 98 for the fifth wicket in 26 overs. They were the initial heroes with the bat, with Shaun Pollack (34) and Nicky Boje (28 off 28 balls) ensuring South Africa got past 200 after falling to 7/150 in the 43rd over after the initial recovery. The pair added an unbeaten 56 in seven and a half overs and with the Australians slow in bowling their overs and subsequently having their innings reduced to 48 overs, the South African total reached a level of respectability.
This reduction to 48 overs was a real surprise, given the fairly liberal interpretation of the rule in the previous two matches.
In Game one, South Africa were 21 minutes over time and on Friday Australia were around a quarter of an hour but neither were penalised in any way. Admittedly though on Wednesday, South Africa's bowlers were continually cleaning their sprigs giving the damp nature of the surface.
In the Australian reply, Shaun Pollock picked up the first wicket, with a fairly straight ball which Mark Waugh played around as he came forward to drive. Waugh went for a single and Australia were 1/21 in the seventh over.
Adam Gilchrist was making the job of batting look very easy as he opened his shoulders to eventually hit nine fours and a pulled six over square leg off Roger Telemachus
Ricky Ponting would have been disappointed with his dismissal as he played an impatient shot which brought about his downfall, attempting to loft Pollock over the on-side on the up. The result - a catch to Makhaya Ntini at mid on and Australia were now tottering a little at 2/31.
Gilchrist continued to make batting look easy but his batting partner Michael Bevan was doing anything but, as he struggled to find a gap in the field with thirteen balls being needed before he could get off the mark.
Gilchrist's entertaining hand came to an end on 63 in the 20th over as he attempted a pull shot off Ntini and top edged it as high and as close as any ball had been near the roof, to be caught by Neil McKenzie at backward point.
Ntini, who had been working up some pace during his first spell, struck the Aussie skipper Steve Waugh on the left arm with his next ball which was a sharp, rising delivery. Waugh rubbed his arm vigourously and Ntini returned to the top of his bowling mark, intent to try and put his side on top in the match.
The eventual loss of the Australian captain, was a big blow for South Africa, as Waugh lofted Lance Klusener to mid off after making 17 and in the 29th over Australia were reduced to 4/114.
Bevan had now started to find the gaps but when he reached 33 off 80 balls, he was brilliantly run out by Neil McKenzie from backward point in the 35th over and Australia now needed right on a run a ball if they were to win the match and clinch this series.
Shane Warne was elevated up the order and lofted a few deliveries to various points of the arena without being able to pick up a boundary.
Damien Martyn eased the tension somewhat as he found the first boundary for nine overs by charging and lofting South African skipper over mid wicket to the fence but in the 38th over Warne attempted to take on Nicky Boje and holed out to a great catch by Gary Kirsten at a widish long-on for seven.
Shane Lee played rebustly as the run rate required found its way to over six and he and Damien Martyn added 28 in six overs before Lee hoisted a ball to deep mid wicket where a good catch was taken by Neil McKenzie, Australia were 7/171.
What eventually broke the back of the chase was the demise of Damien Martyn, who after making 31 off 42 balls, was bowled by a Telemachus yorker in the 45th over at 8/176, this left Australia needing 31 off three and a half overs and this, unsurprisngly proved too much for the remaining batsmen.