Australia v South Africa, Tri-series, Harare September 2, 2014

Australia seal place in final with bonus-point win


Australia 282 for 7 (Marsh 86*, Hughes 85) beat South Africa 220 (Du Plessis 126, Marsh 2-23) by 62 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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'Australia get ideal dress-rehearsal for final'

Mitchell Marsh almost single-handedly took Australia into the tri-series final, first by plundering 86 off 51 balls, including 21 off a single Dale Steyn over, and then with two wickets to dent South Africa's chase. The bonus-point victory has guaranteed Australia spot in Saturday's showdown but put South Africa's in some danger. If they lose to Zimbabwe by a massive margin, so much so that the hosts gain a bonus point and improve the net run-rate, South Africa could be on an early flight home.

Marsh's blitz injected life into an Australian innings that was solid at the start but became stuck through the middle periods against a stranglehold of spin. He shared in a 71-run stand with Brad Haddin for the sixth wicket, which included taking 60 runs off five overs from the 44th over, as South Africa struggled for a death-bowling option. Those runs ultimately proved the difference between the two sides on a scruffy, sluggish surface on which run-scoring was laboured.

Less than a week after they gunned down a target of 328 against Australia, South Africa stumbled in search of a significantly smaller target. Only Faf du Plessis had some measure of what was required and only he managed a score more than 24. Du Plessis' second ODI century came six days after his first, but in much more trying circumstances because he lacked support.

South Africa's middle-order was untested thus far but in their first stern examination were exposed against pace and pressure, as they have been in the past. JP Duminy, David Miller and to a lesser extend Ryan McLaren left South Africa's long tail with too much to do and threw the spotlight on whether they were a batsman light or whether their bowling was what them down.

For nine-tenths of their time in the field, South Africa operated with discipline, from the opening passages where JP Duminy shared the new ball with Steyn, during the Phillip Hughes-Steven Smith stand of 85 for the second wicket and through the batting Powerplay in which they conceded only 20 runs and took two wickets.

South Africa's specialist spinners, Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso, gave away just 81 runs in 20 overs and contributed to a boundary drought that had the rope being breached just once in 10 overs. They limited Hughes and Smith to collecting runs judiciously rather than freely and only Hughes' sprightly start ensured his half-century was achieved at almost a run a ball, off 51 deliveries. They also snaffled three wickets to leave Australia in danger of a posting a total below 250.

Mitchell Marsh's blitz injected life into an Australian innings that was solid at the start but became stuck through the middle periods © AFP

But Marsh changed that when he switched from spectator to instigator as the innings neared its end. He tested the water when he drove Steyn through the covers for four and charged Tahir for six. What followed had not been done in ODI cricket before today. Marsh hit Steyn back over his head for six three times off three deliveries.

In a single over, Marsh's took his own score went from 29 to 50, off just 37 balls, which forced de Villiers to look elsewhere for a death bowler. McLaren offered little better. He missed the yorker on too many occasions and then relied on a short ball. Marsh punished all of it to give Australia a score they would have thought defendable, especially after they removed both South African openers inside ten overs of the reply.

Despite that, du Plessis stirred memories of last Wednesday's effort when he flat-batted Marsh over his head twice but those would have dimmed somewhat when de Villiers swept Nathan Lyon to backward square leg. With Duminy and du Plessis at the crease, South Africa had their best chance at recovery but Australia squeezed, allowing them to score at only four runs to the over. Duminy soon pulled one straight to fine leg and David Miller's defenses were shattered by a fiery Johnson short ball and his own lack of footwork to leave South Africa 101 for 5.

Du Plessis found some assistance from McLaren, who stayed with him for 12.2 overs and contributed 24 runs in a stand of 73. Du Plessis was the senior partner, slamming Mitchell Starc for six twice and lofting Lyon inside-out over cover to reach touching distance of his century. McLaren holed out before du Plessis could get to the milestone, which he reached off 94 balls in the next over.

By then South Africa's challenge was all but over, barring any fireworks from Steyn. He was run out, du Plessis trod on his own stumps and Johnson and Maxwell shared last rites to bowl South Africa out in 44 overs and pick Australia up after their defeat to Zimbabwe in the best way possible.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Richard on September 4, 2014, 15:39 GMT

    @Jono Makim:- Same general figuring as myself mate.

  • Dummy4 on September 4, 2014, 12:53 GMT

    I think that just highlights how important it is to have a tidy bowler like McKay in the side, with him there I think you play both Mitches with no worries at all. I think that gives the right balance between defense and attack, particularly when Watto is bowling too, you definitely need a mix of wicket takers and guys who are hard to hit.

  • Richard on September 4, 2014, 11:45 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx:- It would depend on who the right armers were. Johnson and Starc in the same team just says leaking runs to me.

  • James on September 4, 2014, 11:22 GMT

    Ryno started bowling again last week. @Biggus: My guess is that you wouldn't have a problem with three right armers player, so why have a problem with two left armers. Bowlers are bowlers, you pick your best and Starc is one of them in ODI's.

    I would be very surprised if M. Marsh gets a game at the WC, too early for mine but i wouldn't put it past Lehmann..

  • Richard on September 4, 2014, 10:47 GMT

    @rickyvoncanterbury:- No idea what's going on with Jackson Bird I'm afraid, but if Lehmann's serious about this pace thing he'd fall into the same category as McKay I would have thought. Harris? Well, I haven't given up on the Rhino yet, if anyone can make it back he can. Still plenty of cricket to go before the Cup, so perhaps things will have made themselves clearer by then.

  • richard on September 4, 2014, 7:54 GMT

    @Biggus Geeze a fit Harris only dreaming.... I have not seen enough of Richardson but I thought Mckay was as unlucky as Doherty to miss out, IMO they will pick Starc as Johnson will not play every game, do you know what has happened to Bird ?,

  • Richard on September 3, 2014, 21:53 GMT

    @rickyvoncanterbury:- I'm not set on Haddin moving up the order, I only mentioned it should the middle order be an issue. I see you have Marsh at 4? I can't help but think that might be a bit high come WC time but I'd be just as happy to be proven wrong, all in a good cause. I figure we have plenty of batting for Australian conditions but it's the bowling which worries me a bit. If Harris plays in the tests V India it would have to be some sort of miracle if he also fronted up for the Cup. Johnson looks OK but we can only afford one quick lefty in the team IMHO, so no Starc. Faulkner's struggling atm and I'm not totally convinced with Marsh or Richardson's ability to keep it tight, neither am I sure Lyon's an ODI bowler, despite my support for him in the test side. Additionally the selectors seem to have gone cold on Doherty and McKay, both useful ODI bowlers. I've been a critic of Watson's test results but he's a must have in ODIs if available.

  • Nesar on September 3, 2014, 21:32 GMT

    I'm a big frnd of Australin cricket and my best 15 for world cup.. 1)D.Warner. 2)P.Huge. 3)S.Watson. 4)M.Clarck. 5)G.Maxwell. 6)S.Smith. 7)B.Haddin. 8)M.Jonson. 9)M.Stuck. 10)Shon Tait. 11)R.Harris. 12)M.Marsh. 13)A.Fince. 14)J.Fulknar. 15)J.Murrid.

  • Peter on September 3, 2014, 20:22 GMT

    @Greatest_Game & @dunger.bob. Have to agree with your points re: Haddin. Further to the discussion, Haddin admitted that since his return home mid tour from the WIndies (leaving Wade to take up the gloves) to focus on his 2 yo's daughter's cancer problems, he thought about the game & felt he now doesn't feel the same pressure after having gone through the rehabilitation period & that he is far more relaxed when playing. His glovework appears to found another level recently & adds to positives of selecting glovework vs. batting views.

  • Altaf on September 3, 2014, 16:51 GMT

    SA was over-confident in the match. Shots from deKock, Amla, AB proved so. The target and conditions were supportive for chasing the target. Hope they stay on ground, atleast till WC 15.