JP Duminy and Neil McKenzie set up South Africa's sixth win from six ODIs against Australia at the MCG before Albie Morkel finished the job with a magnificent unbeaten 40 from 18 balls. The loss of McKenzie and Duminy left South Africa in big trouble as they needed 50 from six overs with three wickets in hand, but Morkel and Johan Botha used the batting powerplay to perfection to get them home with three balls to spare.
The powerplay was taken at the start of the 45th over and Morkel used it to destroy Australia, particularly Ben Hilfenhaus, with four fours and a six. They picked up 51 from the powerplay and it was a frenetic end to a chase that had meandered through the middle overs, when Duminy showed more self-control than some Trappist monks, as he compiled 71 without a boundary.
He nudged and guided while Ricky Ponting relied on the medium and slow offerings of James Hopes, David Hussey and Michael Clarke through the middle overs, yet somehow he maintained a healthy strike-rate of 76.34. Duminy was pumping out singles like a record label, producing 44 such hits as he registered the sixth highest ODI score not to feature a four or six.
When he finally fell, clipping Nathan Bracken's offcutter to midwicket, it looked like for the third time this week Duminy's efforts would go in vain. That was especially so when McKenzie also fell for 63, having put forward his one-day credentials after a five-year absence. Their 123-run stand for the fourth wicket had taken a slightly shaky beginning - they came together at 3 for 90 - and turned it into a solid platform.
McKenzie, who last turned out in an ODI in Rawalpindi in October 2003, came in at No. 5 and showed the sort of intent that was severely lacking during his Test innings this season. He struck six boundaries, including a pair of consecutive fours over midwicket off David Hussey.
South Africa's chase had started poorly when Shaun Tait proved far too quick for Hashim Amla in the second over. Amla tried to leave Tait's second delivery but the ball rushed onto him faster than expected and he couldn't get the bat out of the way, playing on to leave South Africa at 1 for 4. The loss of Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis after they made starts was frustrating, but had South Africa fallen short they would have more regretted their below-par fielding effort.
Vaughn van Jaarsveld's debut was an inauspicious affair as he dropped both David Hussey and Ponting, while a series of missed run-out opportunities also proved costly. The most frustrating occasion was when van Jaarsveld fluffed two chances from one delivery. Ponting was on 33 when he clipped Kallis to square leg, where van Jaarsveld spilled a gettable chance above his head and then missed with his attempt to hit the stumps from side on with Shaun Marsh haring through for a single.
Ponting was fluent but only added 13 to his score, but Marsh's 79 meant it was an expensive delivery. Amid all the hullabaloo over David Warner during the past week, his Twenty20 opening partner Marsh had been all but forgotten. Marsh posted his third half-century from his past four ODI innings and it came at the right time for a man who had been struggling at domestic level.
He was scratchy early but gained confidence with some punchy straight drives, before slowly starting to show glimpses of the man who took the IPL by storm last year. His half-century came from 66 deliveries and there were a couple of crowd-pleasing strikes - a six over long off from Botha was the most popular - but much of his scoring came from nudged ones and twos.
Marsh had been one of several beneficiaries of the failed run-out attempts and one of them could have brought an embarrassing end to his innings: Ponting pushed to Botha at mid-off and an accurate throw to the striker's end would have had a lazy Marsh caught short, seemingly unaware the ball was coming his way.
David Hussey was also reprieved when short of his ground and he went on to bring up his third ODI half-century and his first in Australia. But none of the batsmen really dominated the South African attack, which was led confidently by Dale Steyn, although his only wicket was that of the replacement opener Michael Hussey in his first spell.
Kallis was especially tight while the Morkel brothers and Botha chipped in with two wickets each that helped restrict Australia's scoring. On the expansive MCG, 8 for 271 always looked like a moderate score at best, and South Africa's sensible approach proved it to be just that.