Australia v South Africa, Tri-series, Harare August 27, 2014

Clinical South Africa gun down 327


South Africa 328 for 3 (de Villiers 136*, du Plessis 106) beat Australia 327 for 7 (Finch 102, Bailey 66, Hughes 51) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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'De Villiers and du Plessis knew how to pace their innings'

South Africa needed 91 runs from 77 balls when AB de Villiers, with 91 to his name and cramp slicing through his hamstring, walked across his crease, got down on one knee and scooped James Faulkner over his left-shoulder onto the open stands for six. In that one shot, all the questions about South Africa's ability to take on the best were answered.

De Villiers saw his childhood friend Faf du Plessis record his first ODI century in his 51st game, scored a hundred of his own and was there to scamper the winning single when JP Duminy called for it with 21 balls remaining.

The seven-wicket win in a 300-plus chase was as comprehensive as South Africa could have wanted after Australia controlled most of first half. Aaron Finch's fourth ODI century saw them through the middle-over squeeze and set up for a strong finish. Australia took 93 runs off the last 10 overs to post 327 but South Africa did not need a similarly swift response. De Villiers and du Plessis shared a record 206-run third-wicket stand, the highest at Harare Sports Club and the highest for South Africa against Australia, to break the back of the chase and put bowling issues on the backburner for now.

Both teams would be disappointed with their performance in the field, Australia more than South Africa, because they put down two chances as well as bled runs. Mitchell Johnson let de Villiers off the hook in his follow through when he was on 78 and George Bailey put him down at point on 85. Add that to the knowledge that none of their bowlers held an end and Australia will have some scrutinising to do.

Johnson was over-reliant on his short ball, which lacked its usual venom on a surface without much in it. Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson and James Faulkner also struggled to find the right length and the absence of a specialist spinner, with Nathan Lyon benched, was shown up especially against Imran Tahir's returns.

Tahir was South Africa's best performer with the ball and put the brakes on Australia after Finch and Phillip Hughes gave them a start of 62 runs in the first 10 overs. He removed both Hughes and Mitchell Marsh in his first spell which formed part of a ten-over period in which South Africa gave away just 32 runs and one boundary.

That proved vital because they lacked control later on as Finch and Bailey combined to threaten a late burst. Finch went from 80 to a century in 11 balls while Bailey tore into Morne Morkel and Ryan McLaren short balls to leave de Villiers without a banker for the death. Wayne Parnell, who conceded 46 runs in six overs thanks largely to a misdirected line down the leg-side, was used in the final over and cost de Villiers 20 runs. But all that was made to seem minimal when South Africa were at the crease.

Quinton de Kock and Hashim Ama were merciless on width in the opening passages and wiped away 44 runs in seven overs before Australia grabbed the upper-hand. Amla was well caught by Steven Smith at point and de Kock top-edged a pull to deep square leg to leave South Africa stuttering.

But de Villiers and du Plessis played partly with the watchfulness they employed in the Adelaide Test match almost three years ago and partly with aggression to keep South Africa in the hunt. They ran well between the wickets even when de Villiers was in so much discomfort he needed on-field treatment, they punished anything on a length and did not take risks until de Villiers offered his twin chances.

The two drops may have been the turning point because as Australia's confidence waned, South Africa's swelled. Du Plessis maiden ODI hundred came up off 95 balls with a crack through the covers, de Villiers' followed two balls later with a loft over mid-off and as they partnership grew to a double-century, South Africa only had victory in sight even though du Plessis was not there at the end to see it. Fittingly, de Villiers was.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • deepak on August 30, 2014, 4:48 GMT

    i always hate discussing our one dayers, we are just one day series players, not a world cup aiming nation, we are least interested too, just the no.1 Test Team

    100% Pure Proteas

  • Zia on August 29, 2014, 11:12 GMT

    @landl47 has summed up Steyn-Johnson debate very wel,,no point arguing more....l

  • Richard on August 29, 2014, 10:42 GMT

    @ Kallis-is-KING - Jagger is the Bradman of music.

  • Richard on August 29, 2014, 9:06 GMT

    @Jeremy Doveton-Helps:- I was careful not to say Harris is as good as Steyn, but there's a lot we'll never know because of Harris's late blooming and injury woes. I think he has the skills to take wickets everywhere, but we'll never know for sure. Obviously Steyn's wicket tally and longevity will see him rated far more highly in posterity than Harris, however those who've followed Harris's career closely, myself included, will always think of what might have been. He's as good to watch go about his business as any quick I've ever seen, going back to about '72. He actually reminds me a little of Malcolm Marshall, a sentiment Mark Taylor echoed during an Ashes commentary stint over the summer. There's either something very special there, or we're both barking mad. None of this diminishes Steyn, whom I have only the greatest respect for, it's just a reminder that big test records don't tell the whole story, as with Barry Richards or Graeme Pollock for example.

  • ESPN on August 29, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    Please stop all this comparing Steyn with Johnston as they are both different but great fast bowlers , so let's just enjoy the only 2 top fast bowlers in world cricket right now as without these two how poor would test cricket be as gone are the days when every team had atleast 1 genuine quick. Let's hope more quicks come through soon as batsmen have it all to easy these days compared to previous decades.

  • John on August 29, 2014, 7:57 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx, who said, "Steyn is Mozart. Johnson is the Rolling stones, and I have always had a rock n' roll heart" - You are so right, the one is an absolute genius (Once in a life-time) & the other, merely talented. There'll be many a 'Rolling Stones-type but only ever, one Mozart. Now I, for one, prefer the genius-type!

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2014, 7:27 GMT

    @ Biggus - your comment on SA's tracks is fair, but you need to take on board that what sets Steyn apart form anyone else is what he manages to extract from 'dead' tracks... SA have a quite extraordinary record AWAY from SA's quick tracks in recent years, due in no small part to Steyn's variety and skill

  • Graham on August 29, 2014, 7:27 GMT

    HennopsRiverEnd; Absolutely and those that cant enjoy these champions should really take a good look at themselves.

  • Tshego on August 29, 2014, 7:07 GMT

    @Shaggy076. No harm done, world cricket is lucky to have both Steyn and Johnson. i think @landl47 summed it up very well.

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2014, 5:13 GMT

    @Biggus Dale Steyn has taken 250+ test wickets more than Harris has (383 v 103) that's what makes his average so impressive. Nevertheless Harris is still a very good bowler!

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