Australia put last week's wobble at Kingsmead quickly behind them with a 19-run victory over South Africa in the opening Standard Bank One-Day International at the Wanderers on Friday. For just a while, though, Lance Klusener threatened to wrest the game away from them.
The Australians had to live through 109 minutes of Klusener as the left-hander hammered 83 off 77 balls to endanger Ricky Ponting's first victory as one-day captain. But the failure of the earlier South African batting had left Klusener too much to do on his own and Klusener was eventually last man out, caught at deep midwicket in a death or glory bid for victory.
"It got a bit more exciting than I would have liked," said Ponting. "But right the way through I still thought we were going to win."
The win demonstrated that for all the fuss generated by the axing of Steve Waugh, the current World Cup champions will still be one of the teams to beat back here in South Africa next year.
Australia's 223 for eight on a pitch that played inconsistently looked to be something short of a winning score, but Jason Gillespie lopped the top off the South African batting with the wickets of Herschelle Gibbs, Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis in his opening spell. At 23 for three South Africa had veered off course and at took some time to get the ship pointing back in the right direction.
Boeta Dippenaar, dropped from the Test team after the crushing defeat in the first Test, put together a stylish 51 to initiate something of a recovery. He was missed at slip on 15 by Damien Martyn, fielding there in the absence of Mark Waugh and Shane Warne, but looked in particularly good form until he became Nathan Hauritz's first international wicket.
A little earlier Ian Harvey had winkled out Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock in the space of three balls and at 93 for seven, South Ad to do was frica looked completely out of.
But Klusener found a parner in Nicky Boje as the eighth wicket added 71 before Boje was run out by substitute fielder Brett Lee's wonderful throw from the deep. Roger Telemachus went quickly and at 166 for nine, all Australia had to do, it seemed, was get Makhaya Ntini on strike and bowl straight.
Klusener farmed the bowling, though, hitting with a power reminiscent of his amazing 1999 World Cup run, but it couldn't last and it didn't.
The Australian innings, after Ponting had won the toss and chosen to bat, fell away somewhat after Adam Gilchrist had given it an explosive start. Gilchrist thrashed Roger Telemachus out of the attack, 26 coming off the medium pacer's first three overs and it needed the introduction of Makhaya Ntini to bring some order to the South African bowling.
Ntini started with two maidens and then bagged Gilchrist, caught at midwicket for 37. It proved to be the joint highest score of the innings as one Australian batsman after another got himself in only to get himself out.
Matthew Hayden made 27, Ponting 14, Martyn 24, Darren Lehmann 37, Michael Bevan 18 and Harvey 19 as the South Africans managed to nip almost every partnership in the bud.
Ntini was instrumental in containing Australia, taking two for 14 in his first seven over spell and finishing with three for 24 off his 10 and it remains a mystery as to why he was not given the new ball in the first place.
In the field, too, South Africa looked sharper than at any stage during the Test series with Jonty Rhodes making his presence felt when he took a stunning right-handed catch at point to get rid of Hayden and then later with a direct hit on the stumps at the bowler's end to run out Bevan.