A powerful half-century from Shane Watson helped Australia make an encouraging start to their tour of South Africa as they won the opening Twenty20 in Cape Town by five wickets. The teenage debutant Patrick Cummins collected three wickets as South Africa reached 146 for 7, led by a solid innings from JP Duminy, and the target wasn't enough to prevent Australia from turning around their recent poor T20 form.
Although Australia's chase was on track for most of the innings, a couple of good late overs from Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe gave South Africa a sniff in the dying stages. Australia needed six from the final over, bowler by Rusty Theron, and a single from Matthew Wade was followed by a square-driven boundary and a single from Steven Smith to get Australia home with three balls to spare, their second win from their past nine T20s.
It was also their second win under the captaincy of Cameron White, who took over from Michael Clarke in January. White made a valuable contribution of 28 from 22 deliveries to keep Australia's chase ticking along, and David Hussey's 25 was also important, until he skied a slower ball from Tsotsobe in the second last over.
Earlier in the over, Hussey had slammed Tsotsobe straight back over his head for an enormous six that all but ensured Australia's victory. Two balls prior he had been dropped by Johan Botha at backward point, one of two spilled chances by Botha, who also gave White a reprieve at cover.
Theron wasn't the only South African who could be called rusty, which perhaps was understandable given they had not played an international match since they exited the World Cup in March. The most important of three missed chances in the field came in the second over when Graeme Smith put down Watson at slip off the bowling of Morne Morkel.
Watson was on 2 at the time and he certainly made the South Africans pay. He used his muscle to pull Tsotsobe for six but he also played some classical strokes, including a perfect straight drive for four off Theron, who went for 42 from his three and a half overs. Watson brought up his half-century from his 34th delivery and although he fell soon after, from a leading edge caught at cover off Morkel for 52, he had done enough to set Australia on the path to victory.
The chase had started poorly for Australia when David Warner, fresh from a pair of centuries in his final two Champions League innings, was run out without scoring in the first over. Warner mistimed a pull and took off for a single but was caught short at the bowler's end by a wonderful direct hit form Morkel at backward square leg.
Watson and Shaun Marsh (25) then combined for an 82-run stand that more than steadied the Australians, who had worked hard in the field to ensure a gettable target. Only twice before had Australia chased down bigger totals to win T20 internationals, and the target could have been greater but for a triple-wicket over in the 19th of the innings from Cummins.
At 18, Cummins became Australia's second-youngest debutant of all time in any format, but he showed plenty of poise to finish with 3 for 25 from his four overs. He collected the important wicket of Duminy, who on 67 failed to negotiate the slower ball from Cummins and skied a catch to Watson at cover.
Cummins was soon on a hat-trick when he had David Miller (20) caught at long-off trying to clear the rope, and while the hat-trick ball was clipped for four through square leg by Botha, Cummins struck again later in the over. Again it was the slower ball that worked for Cummins, who had Botha caught at cover, and when Watson bowled Robin Peterson in the final over, Australia's bowlers had done well to keep the target from ballooning.
Earlier, Duminy had spent some time getting himself in, and was soon striking the ball cleanly and finding the middle of the bat. He welcomed the left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe with a six over long-on first ball, and took to the offerings of another of Australia's debutants, James Pattinson, who ended up with 1 for 32.
Pattinson's final over leaked 19 runs as Duminy crunched him for a four through midwicket and then launched a pair of sixes over midwicket and deep cover. Duminy had support from two of the newer members of South Africa's batting order, in a 58-run partnership with Colin Ingram that was followed by a 65-run stand with Miller.
Miller had come to the crease after the departure of Ingram for 33 off 28 deliveries, when he was deceived by the slower ball from Pattinson and lofted the ball to Cummins at deep cover. Ingram had scored at a decent rate, driving square through point when given width and clipping through leg when the bowlers overcorrected.
He lifted David Hussey over long-on for six, just clearing the rope when Warner jumped and got a hand to the ball but failed to cling on to what would have been a brilliant catch. Warner had already done something wonderful in the field, with an excellent throw from the deep having caught the stand-in captain Hashim Amla short for 4.
Amla was coming back for a third run but couldn't beat the accurate throw from Warner, who had run back at deep midwicket to save the boundary. Another of Australia's four debutants, the wicketkeeper Wade, collected Warner's return and whipped the bails off quickly to leave South Africa in trouble at 10 for 2 in the third over.
Their problems had started in the first over when Smith looked rusty in South Africa's first international match since the World Cup in March. No runs came off the bat in the first over, which ended with Smith dragging the ball on from well outside off to hand Doug Bollinger, remarkably playing his first T20 international, his first wicket in the format.
Australia were on top, and South Africa never quite recovered from the early losses.