Australia 9 for 249 (Marsh 78, Ponting 64, Ntini 3-39) beat South Africa 6 for 244 (Kallis 72) by 5 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Australia's fresh bowling line-up just managed to make up for their costly slip in the first match by shutting out South Africa to level the series at 1-1 in Hobart. The tourists stole a three-wicket win in Melbourne on Friday and threatened to do it again, finishing six runs short of victory at 6 for 244.
With no Lee, Clark, Tait or Watson, Australia instead relied on the next rung of Hilfenhaus, Bracken, Harris, Hopes and Hussey to stifle the South Africans after Ricky Ponting and Shaun Marsh set up their 9 for 249. Jacques Kallis compiled a useful half-century and AB de Villiers chipped in with 44 on a tricky surface offering variable pace and bounce, but the calm pursuit did not include the required amount of urgency until another dramatic conclusion.
South Africa left their Powerplay to the 45th over and accelerated to the point where they needed 17 from the final over off Ben Hilfenhaus. Mark Boucher launched a six to long-on and eight were wanted from the last two deliveries, but they could only rush two singles.
Kallis, who picked up two wickets earlier in the day, was the key following the loss of both openers as they slipped to 2 for 52 in the 15th over. The batsmen were watchful, taking 27 off the first ten, and Kallis was able to play with the most freedom, although he stayed too cool for too long.
He hit five boundaries, including a couple of fierce off-side drives from Ryan Harris, in his 96-ball 72 before exiting when he pushed Hilfenhaus to point. The breakthrough cut Kallis' stand of 93 with de Villiers that took the visitors to a point where they could launch a late attack.
What they didn't expect was the run out of de Villiers, who was caught a metre short trying for a two to Harris, and the task remained out of reach despite the final flurry. de Villiers limped off with his side in trouble at 4 for 157 and needing seven an over without their two main batsmen.
JP Duminy (35) and Neil McKenzie could not break free and the required rate was almost nine when McKenzie played-on to the debutant Harris, who showed energy in his 1 for 54. Hilfenhaus stood out, taking two wickets before he was punished at the end, while Nathan Bracken showed his experience at the start and finish. The offspinner David Hussey and James Hopes were also used cleverly in encouraging signs for the future.
The hosts were boosted by Marsh's fifth fifty in 10 games and 64 from Ponting as they put on 135 for the second wicket. Marsh, the Man of the Match, scored 79 at the MCG and followed up with 78 off 103 deliveries in a careful innings that was essential to Australia's target-setting. He left with the team in a strong position of 3 for 166, but the situation became more difficult the longer the innings went on.
After 15 overs the Australians were 66 and they lifted the rate dramatically over the next 10. Then they were slowed by the South African spinners, disrupted when Ponting and Marsh left and took their Powerplay in the 40th over at 3 for 190. Only 23 runs were added in the next 30 balls and the dismissal of Michael Hussey (28) was followed by Cameron White's.
Further problems came when David Hussey, who was out of sorts with 19 off 30, square drove Makhaya Ntini to Albie Morkel at backward point and the dismissal was repeated for Hopes. Brad Haddin scrambled to 23 before being run out on the penultimate delivery and Harris then holed out to long-off to give Ntini 3 for 39.
Marsh was fine once he warmed up and impressed with cut shots and drives as he collected nine boundaries. However, he went in sight of a century when he tried to work Duminy to the legside and Herschelle Gibbs ran in from cover for a diving take.
Both Marsh and Ponting left in three overs after the captain struggled in the early stages, crawling to 6 off 18 balls. Once settled Ponting gained speed and his half-century took 56 balls, but he didn't stay much longer and went pulling Kallis to fine leg. Kallis grabbed 2 for 57 and Steyn earned an excellent 2 for 36 in a bowling display that was much better than the slippery-fingered catching over the first half of the innings. Both Marsh and Ponting had lives that proved costly for the visitors.