Australian last-wicket pair snatch tie in Potchefstroom
Australia's last wicket pair of Jimmy Maher and Nathan Hauritz snatched a remarkable tie in the third Standard Bank One-Day International in Potchefstroom on Wednesday after South Africa seemed set to take their first victory of the series.
The pair came together in the 46th over with 37 still required for victory and played with remarkable pluck to give themselves 18 to win off the last two overs and 10 off the last.
A high full toss from Jacques Kallis, called no ball and hit for two by Maher left Australia needing seven off six balls and five singles followed until two runs were required off the last ball to win.
In the end, Hauritz managed only a single for the third tie in one-day internationals between the two countries. Should he have gone for the second, and winning, run, Maher was asked afterwards. "I like to think I run OK between the wickets," he replied. "But I'm not Linford Christie."
It was a remarkable comeback from the Australians who appeared to have positioned themselves nicely for an assault on South Africa's 259 for seven at 178 for three in the 37th over only to slump to 223 for nine. You wouldn't have got a price on any result other than a South African victory at that stage but Maher, who took the man of the match award for his 95 on Sunday in only his third ODI, had other ideas.
He nursed the 20-year Hauritz through the final stages but scored himself to such good effect that he was not out on 43 off 32 balls at the finish - and man of the match once again.
If there is a moral victor in a tied game it was Australia on this occasion. They had lost a couple of early wickets, but Matthew Hayden's 77 and contributions of 35 from Damien Martyn and a skillfully played 33 from Darren Lehmann rebuilt the innings until they fell victim to a slump engineered largely by a fiery second spell from Makhaya Ntini who nipped out Shane Watson, Andy Bichel and Brett Lee in successive overs.
And when Lance Klusener bowled Jason Gillespie with the second ball of the 46th over, South Africa had the match for the taking. Only a knockout blow was needed, but Maher and Hauritz proved more resilient than anyone might have imagined.
"I think we did a fantastic job to come out with a tie after being 223 for nine," Australia captain Ricky Ponting reflected on Wednesday night.
South Africa's first substantial total of the series owed much to the return to form of Jonty Rhodes and Kallis, but also something to Neil McKenzie who came into the side for his first game.
In a bid to shake things up, South Africa brought in McKenzie and Andrew Hall for Gary Kirsten and Roger Telemachus with Boeta Dippenaar shuffling up the order to open.
Different combination, same result with both Dippenaar and Herschelle Gibbs back in the dressing after a hostile opening spell from Brett Lee had both of them caught in the slips.
At this point, though, South Africa found the missing ingredient - a partnership for the third wicket between Kallis and McKenzie that gave the home team a platform for the first time in the series.
After two failures Kallis was in more recognisable mood, solid and unperturbed as he anchored the innings while McKenzie played a number of delightful strokes in making 37 out of a 78-run partnership.
Th real momentum for the innings, however, came when Rhodes arrived at the crease to nudge, sweep and scramble 83 off just 74 balls. He and Kallis added 75 in 73 balls for the fourth wicket before Kallis was finally caught at the wicket off Gillespie for 71.
Rhodes was on fire, though, to the extent that he outscored Klusener in a 42-run partnership for the fifth wicket. Klusener made 20, Rhodes, who reverse swept Darren Lehmann for an extraordinary six at one point, went in the last over and South Africa had given themselves a total they could defend.
And defend it they did. But only just.