South Africa v Australia, 3rd T20I, Cape Town March 9, 2016

Australia turn on the power to chase 179 and seal series


Australia 181 for 4 (Smith 44, Tahir 2-38) beat South Africa 178 for 4 (Amla 97*, Coulter-Nile 2-36) by six wickets
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'My goal to have a century in each format' - De Kock

Hashim Amla's career-best 97 not out was not enough for South Africa to secure a series victory as Australia squeezed with spin and then attacked the opposition's slower bowlers to claim a 2-1 win in the T20I decider at Newlands.

The result means that the same puzzle that has faced South Africa all summer remains unsolved. Their middle-order is still missing some reliability and they have yet to decide who to anoint as their fifth bowler.

Australia, on the other hand, have answered some of their own questions. They found an opening combination that worked, their captain contributed a vital innings, and they were successful against spin on a surface that South Africa had asked to resemble a sub-continent strip as far as possible.

While run-scoring had stuttered during the women's match that preceded this one, Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla scotched any notions of sluggish track with fluency from the outset. In AB de Villiers' absence, both seemed eager to impress for the opening spot in India and took turns taking the initiative.

De Kock opened with two finesse-laced flicks off Nathan Coulter-Nile, whose line was initially too straight. Amla responded with impressive footwork to send Shane Watson to opposite ends of the ground. South Africa raced to 47 after four overs and were threatening to run away with it when de Kock threw his bat at a full delivery and John Hastings took a smart catch at third man.

That only seemed to spur Amla on even more. He unleashed a powerful pull to Coulter-Nile's next ball and then got away with a top edge that carried for six to force another bowling change. James Faulkner was the fourth bowler used in the Powerplay and Amla drilled him for back-to-back boundaries to take South Africa to the second highest total in the six-over period at Newlands, 68 for 1.

Hashim Amla's unbeaten 97 wasn't enough for South Africa © Getty Images

Adam Zampa came on immediately after the fielding restrictions were lifted and bowled the first boundary-free over the innings. That meant Faf du Plessis had not got in on the action at all and, in his haste to join in, he misread a Watson slower ball and spooned a catch to short mid-wicket.

While Amla bided his time, Rilee Rossouw was kept quiet by Zampa and Glenn Maxwell - and Zampa should have had him caught on the mid-wicket boundary when he was on three only for Maxwell to spill the catch. Amla reached his fifty off 31 balls and seemed content to rotate the strike during the squeeze.

In the five overs that followed the Powerplay, Australia conceded just 25 runs to put the onus back on Amla to get things going. He took on Zampa and Maxwell, finding a boundary in each of their next overs. When Rossouw tried to do the same off Coulter-Nile, he failed, gifting a catch to Steve Smith at long-off.

South Africa promoted David Miller above JP Duminy and his quick-fire 30 took the pressure off Amla. It also denied him a century. Amla entered the final over on 84, hit a six off the first ball and then took a single to put Miller on strike. Miller ran two and then sent a full toss to cover but did not run to leave Amla off strike. Amla duly struck the last ball of the innings for six but had to settle for 97 not out.

In the end, South Africa had needed a little more than just those three runs. The Sydney team-mates, Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson, got Australia off to a solid start before Steve Smith and David Warner guided them to the finish.

Australia's openers took on the short ball which Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott were all generous in serving up. Although Australia's Powerplay was not as explosive as South Africa's - they scored 51 runs in the six overs - it set them up. Australia changed tack when the fielding restrictions were lifted and targeted the spin instead, with good results and a touch of luck.

Watson dispatched Imran Tahir's second ball over mid-wicket but, when he tried to hit him down the ground, Watson should have been caught. David Miller at long-off spilled the chance. Watson was not deterred by that and sent the last ball of that over into the stands.

The plan continued into Tahir's next over, when Watson tried to go straight down the ground again. He should have been caught again off the first ball but, between Miller at long-off du Plessis at cover, they could not decide who should take it. He was caught off the next ball, however, playing the same shot, and Tahir struck again in the same over when Khawaja joined in on the strategy. He tried a sweep but got as far as Amla at deep square-leg.

South Africa worked their way back into contention but instead of turn to a strike bowler, du Plessis brought Duminy on. Australia paid him some respect at first - Smith instead turned his attention to Tahir, hitting him for the straightest six of the match, before taking on Duminy as well.

Steyn was brought back on to try and break the partnership but Smith and Warner were seeing the ball too well. Warner was particularly severe on Wiese, whose pace off the ball approach did not work, and with 47 needed from the last six overs, the sting was taken out of the contest.

Neither Smith nor Warner hung around to finish but they'd done enough. Maxwell whittled the requirements down to 12 off 12 and Mitchell Marsh hit the winning runs with four balls to spare.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Peter on March 12, 2016, 13:49 GMT

    I'd say India versus Oz or NZ in the final at this point with India favourites by a nose being at home. The good thing about our chances would be the familiarity of many like Watson, Smith, Warner, Maxy, Finch etc with conditions in India via the IPL. WE are in with a decent chance. If Starc was in then we'd be line ball with India. His swinging Yorkers at 150 kph make a difference ! Regardless of the past, this team is on the rise in all formats.

  • subhasish on March 12, 2016, 8:59 GMT

    I think Australia powerful bating big advantage yes other teams also good batsman's but Australian bating at the moment very strong they got hitters like Maxwell Watson warner marsh Faulkner and also good anchors like smith Usman khawaja finch I think Australia should chase if they won the toss their is ok not great I back Australia to win the t20 world cup becoz Australia record in India is very good they won 1987 world cup in India 2006 champions trophy in India

  • Phil on March 11, 2016, 21:42 GMT

    For us to win the world cup, we need to choose our best 11 players on form, then worry about the order after that. A bit like NZ are doing, and SA will do if they have Amla, QDK and ABD at the top.Our best 6 batsmen are: Khawaja, Watson, Finch, Warner, Smith, Maxwell. Khawaja and Warner are the first 2 batsman picked as they our best batsman in all formats at the moment. The other 5 are: Faulkner, Marsh, Neville, Zampa, Coulter-Nile/Hastings.That will give us up to 7 bowling options (Faulkner, Marsh, Zampa, Coulter + Watson / Maxwell / Smith to share the remaining 4 overs).At the moment we have teams with 8-9 bowling option, don't think we need that many., 2 fast bowlers more than enough in India.

  • Ash on March 11, 2016, 12:22 GMT

    australias best 6 T20 batsmen on form need to be chosen, then work out the order.

    the top 6 are: khawaja, watson, finch, warner, smith, maxwell.

    Then the other 5: marsh, faulkner, neville, zampa, coulter-nile

  • Allan on March 11, 2016, 6:11 GMT

    Finch certainly has struggled this year. He didn't have a great BBL. In contrast, Khawaja dominated every match he played in the BBL, and was awesome in the powerplay, a big part of the suggestion he should definitely be opening, not coming in further down.Khawaja and Watson certainly seems the best option. Watson's bowling may be a thing that gives him extra chance of getting picked, but if they are playing Mitch Marsh and Maxwell in the top 6 they don't really need any more bowling options, unless they are bowling well enough to drop a bowler and pick an extra bat.

  • JOHN on March 10, 2016, 17:00 GMT

    Australia had this game right through the match. The quick fire slog 62/1 in 6 overs by SA was expected and the only way to go. To bad they rested AB, so did we against India and SA to a certain extent. This is a trial by error, but contrary to obvious, We usually put pressure on the oppo by turning up heat when our boys play freely or "slogging" in your words, fair cause that's what T20 is freaking slow fest. Our boys are test and trad ODI primed players, adapting to T20, "is a work in progress" and already more effective than most, we are not the best but up there. SA are always concerned by result. "Steyn", is burnt force and will be helping the ball to the fence as quick as our boys do. Medi bowlers will have to change up and holdup the ball and rip it in short of length, Quicks too will have too pull-up on pace a bit and were in business. Tahir is nothing, Zampa is heeps better and controlled.

  • Adinic on March 10, 2016, 15:59 GMT

    I don't really understand why Maxwell was backing away to every delivery. A huge fan of his and don't want him improvising every delivery. It was fine since the game was already in the bag. I just hope he doesn't use that tactic too much when he comes in earlier. Doing it towards the back end is fine. Also, to those saying that that the "back away look away" six he hit was just a slog, watch the shot again. His head did go towards the other side but he was aiming to cut that ball towards the point/cover boundary all along. Same goes for the other cuts he played.

  • Adinic on March 10, 2016, 15:49 GMT

    SA probably used this decider to test a few things and weren't all that concerned about the result. Terrific innings by Amla. If Roussow played well, this would have been a much closer game for sure. Watson threw it away against Tahir. He kept on playing the same shot again and again. It might mean that he wasn't confident against Tahir to play the other shots except for the slog sweep. Warner just going about his business as he has been doing for the past few matches consistently. Still think that its a wrong move to move Warner down the order. He can be at his best as an opener and in the form he's in, he'll simply get off to a flier every time he stays in for a while. Smith, even though he got runs, looked uncomfortable half the time hew was on the crease. He tried to slog from the get go and was lucky not to get out in single figures against the spinners.

  • Bhumit on March 10, 2016, 13:13 GMT

    It was disappointing to see the way Watson got out!! Why would you play such shot where you already got drooped twice! Was he in some kind of urgency to get out?

  • Bhumit on March 10, 2016, 13:07 GMT

    THis victory has given Austrlia a false confidence!!! Anyway i am aussie cricket fan but i dont know why my mind is not getting good vibes!!! I think it will be first round exit for auss because of their poor bowling attack. I hope i am wrong.

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