Last-wicket pair give Australia A win in thriller
Australia A 303 for 9 (Marsh 72, Ferguson 66, Philander 3-48) beat South Africa A 298 for 7 (Rudolph 90, Vandiar 60) by one wicket
In a nailbiting finish in Harare, Australia A's Nos. 10 and 11 - Trent Copeland and Nathan Lyon - held their nerve in a 28-run partnership, and took their team past South Africa A's 298 off the penultimate ball. Lyon had been dropped by Justin Ontong at backward point off the first ball of Rory Kleinveldt's last over, and made South Africa A pay by smashing the fifth ball of the over for a six to stretch Australia's winning streak in the tournament to four matches. South Africa A will now have to make sure Zimbabwe XI don't beat them comfortably on July 6 to reach the final.
The match had already seen several twists before Copeland and Lyon's last-wicket stand. South Africa's top order had left Australia stunned and it looked like they would get well in excess of 300. But a couple of wickets from Mitchell Marsh helped Australia peg South Africa back and keep the total to 298. Marsh then scored 72 to put Australia in a strong position but after a couple more turns South Africa A seemed to have wrapped the game up when Vernon Philander dismissed Callum Ferguson and Mitchell Starc in the space of three balls to leave Australia 275 for 9. South Africa did not have their star death bowler Rusty Theron though, and Copeland and Lyon provided a final twist.
South Africa would have been satisfied with their total - easily the highest of the tournament till then - but were roused out of complacency as Australia's openers attacked the new ball. David Warner, who has had a poor tournament so far, fell for 22, but Aaron Finch and Marsh made sure Australia's run-rate did not dip. After the two were gone, Ferguson, who already had two half-centuries in the tournament, kept things going for Australia and at 213 for 3 in the 35th over it was theirs to lose.
Philander, though, struck back for South Africa, removing Tim Paine, and from then on wickets fell regularly. Ferguson, though, reached another half-century, and it looked like he would take Australia home. It was only when he was bowled for Philander for 66 that South Africa became favourites. But Lyon and Copeland hung on to get the remaining runs.
An Australia win was almost unimaginable for the first 33 overs of the game. Jacques Rudolph and Jonathan Vandiar pummelled Australia in a 123-run opening partnership, and when Vandiar fell for 60 off 57, Rilee Rossouw picked up from where he left off. Rossouw got 52 off 55 balls, and Rudolph went to the top of the tournament's run chart with his 90. At 187 for 1 in 33 overs, South Africa were in charge. But they lost four wickets in the next six overs giving Australia a window back into the game. Roelof van der Merwe gave the innings one final push with his 40 off 30 balls and the final target was nearly good enough.