Brad Hodge’s back-to-back sixes off Wayne Parnell proved decisive as Australia beat South Africa by five wickets in a Twenty20 international that had been reduced to seven overs per side due to rain on Wednesday.
Australia went into the final over of a frenetic match at Kingsmead requiring 15 runs to reach a target of 81, and achieved it with two deliveries to spare thanks to Hodge’s lusty blows over deep midwicket.
The 39-year-old finished unbeaten on 21 from eight deliveries in his third match since returning to the Australian side after a six-year absence.
The result put Australia 1-0 up in the three-match series with one game to play after the first clash was washed out.
Despite Wednesday’s encounter being reduced in length, South Africa opted against sending some of its bigger hitters up the order after it lost the toss and was asked to bat, and arguably paid the price as Hashim Amla struggled up front.
The hosts scored just 11 runs for the loss of Amla in their first three overs, but recovered spectacularly as Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis took 69 off the last four.
De Kock finished unbeaten on 41 from 20 deliveries, while Du Plessis was 27 not out as South Africa finished on 80-1 from its seven overs.
Australia made the ideal start to its reply when Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s first over went for 21, as David Warner continued the excellent form he showed in the test series when he scored 543 runs in three matches.
“I don’t think he’s picked up a bat since the end of the tests, and then to come out and be as fluent and powerful as he was, he’s in beautiful touch at the moment and a great head space,” Australia captain George Bailey said.
South Africa’s prospects improved when Warner was trapped lbw by JP Duminy for a quick 40 and powerful batsman Glenn Maxwell was dismissed in the same over.
However Hodge brought his experience to bear when he hit the third and fourth deliveries of Parnell’s over for six, before a wide sealed the game for Australia.
“A seven-over game is pretty hectic, “Du Plessis said. “You can’t look too much into it — you’re basically just trying to swing out your boots every ball and in the field just hoping for some luck.”
The final match of the series is on Friday at Centurion.