South Africa 258 for 4 (Smuts 84, Klaasen 68*) beat Australia 254 for 7 (Labuschagne 108, Nortje 2-35) by six wickets
South Africa swept a second successive home series against Australia, and extended their winning streak to 11 out of the last 12 ODIs against this opposition, with a dominant performance in Potchefstroom. After beating Australia 5-0 in 2016, and 2-1 in Australia in 2018, South Africa won 3-0 under new white-ball captain Quinton de Kock to end their home summer on a high.
Jon-Jon Smuts, who missed the the trip to India in September because of fitness concerns, anchored a straightforward chase of 255 with a career-best 84, assisted by contributions from the rest of the top five. Heinrich Klaasen, in particular, played a strong supporting role and scored his second half-century of the series to add to an unbeaten 123 in the opening match. Klaasen finished as the leading run-scorer, and the only one to post more than 200 runs across the three matches.
South Africa's line-up had their attack to thank for giving them a chaseable target after a miserly effort in the field. Without Kagiso Rabada (injured) and Lungi Ngidi (rested), South Africa restricted Australia to a below-par score with Anrich Nortje, Lutho Sipamla, debutant Daryn Dupavillon, Smuts and Keshav Maharaj all conceding five runs an over or less.
Despite their defeat the visitors, and one in particular, had something to celebrate too. Marnus Labuschagne marked his return to his home town (or at least the closest cricket ground to it) with his maiden 50-over century for his adopted country, in just his sixth ODI. With a significant extended family presence in the stands, Labuschagne came off a first-ball duck in Bloemfontein, to score a run-a-ball hundred in an otherwise laboured Australia innings.
On a hot day and a slow surface, the bulk of Australia's batting was a struggle with fluency only coming in the last five overs, where they scored 42 runs. Contrastingly, South Africa batted more easily on a pitch that seemed to improve as the afternoon wore on. Crucially, Australia's attack did not appear to have the same control and failed to keep pressure on the home batsmen, who were patient but punishing in their reply.
Quinton de Kock and Janneman Malan started positively, perhaps overly so when de Kock slammed a six off Jhye Richardson over long-off and on to the head of a cameraman, who needed treatment from South Africa's physiotherapist. He did not have the same success against Josh Hazlewood, who dismissed him for the sixth time in 12 matches when de Kock inside-edged on to his stumps.
Smuts might have been gone two balls later when he edged the first ball he faced wide of first slip, but it went for four. Hazlewood kept his hold over the top order and dismissed Malan with a hint of seam movement in his next over, which gave Australia a sniff. But, Smuts and Kyle Verreynne ensured it was nothing more with a third-wicket partnership of 96.
Smuts was strong against spin while Verreynne was severe on the Richardsons, hitting Kane for 13 in one over and Jhye for 13 in another. Verreynne was the more aggressive of the two and brought up a maiden fifty, off 48 balls, before slogging Adam Zampa to deep midwicket. Zampa had an appeal against Smuts two balls later, which was not given out and replays showed the umpire's call would have stood, and in the next over Smuts reached fifty off 62 balls. He remained somewhat watchful while Klaasen pulled out the reverse-sweep and the cut off D'Arcy Short and a risky aerial shot over mid-off off Kane Richardson to put South Africa firmly in control.
With 76 runs required off the last 16 overs, Smuts joined in the fun and found five boundaries in the next four overs, which put him in sight of a hundred. It was not to be, as he sent a Kane Richardson slower ball to David Warner at long-on. By then, South Africa needed just 26 runs to win and Klaasen scored all but two of them. He finished the match in the 46th over with two fours and a six off Mitchell Marsh to hand South Africa a memorable win.
Earlier, Nortje started speedily, clocking 151kph at one stage, and drew first blood when he found Warner's outside-edge in the fifth over. His new-ball partner Sipamla did not have the same gas but kept Aaron Finch quiet with tight lines, although his first spell may have lasted an over too long: his fifth over cost 10 runs, after the first four went for 11.
He was replaced by Andile Phehlukwayo, who made the big breakthrough with his third delivery when he dismissed Steven Smith lbw. When Dupavillon had Finch caught at short extra cover, Labuschagne was left with a repair job, as South Africa's spinners established control over the mid-section of the innings. Between overs 20 and 30, Australia managed only three boundaries, but Labuschagne ticked along to 50 off 59 balls during an 81-run stand, which ended when Short clipped Smuts uppishly to midwicket.
Marsh hit the only six of Australia's innings when he scooped Dupavillon over backward square but it was back to the grind immediately thereafter. Australia entered the last 10 overs on 180 for 4 and lost Marsh to a run-out and Alex Carey for a duck in the 43rd over. But Labuschagne was on hand for a late assault. He took successive fours off Sipamla to enter the 80s and then scored three in a row off Phehlukwayo to go deep into the 90s. In eight deliveries, Labuschagne went from 75 to 97 and two balls later, brought up his hundred with great gusto. While he punched the air and roared in delight almost an entire section of the main stand stood to applaud. They were on their feet again in the final over, when Labuschagne was bowled by Nortje with the penultimate ball of the innings, and probably knew Australia did not have enough.