Opener Aaron Finch scored 109 and Steve Smith added an unbeaten 73 off 55 balls as Australia beat South Africa by 73 runs on Wednesday to lead 2-1 in their five-match one-day international series.
After winning the toss, Finch and David Warner (53) raced to 118-0 before Vernon Philander took the first wicket in the 20th over. Finch notched his fifth one-day century when he hit consecutive boundaries off Imran Tahir to reach 99, then took a hurried single when the spinner misfielded.
In South Africa’s reply, opener Hashim Amla scored 102 before being bowled by Josh Hazlewood.
Finch batted powerfully for 40 overs before being clean bowled as he tried to hit AB de Villiers (1-42 off six overs) out of Manuka Oval. That left Smith, later named man of the match, to guide Australia, 242-3 at the time, through the last 10 overs.
South Africa made a strong start to its run chase when Amla and Quinton de Kock (47) put on 108 for the opening wicket.
But de Kock departed after skying a Hazlewood (3-51) delivery to Mitchell Marsh in the 19th over, and Faf du Plessis (17) and Rilee Rossouw (2) fell to Marsh and Mitchell Starc (4-32) in the 27th and 28th overs.
That brought de Villiers to the crease and the in-form captain hit 52 runs off 34 deliveries as he put on 76 runs with Amla for the fourth wicket.
But when he and Amla departed in the 38th and 39th overs, de Villiers lbw to Kane Richardson and Amla bowled by Hazlewood, the chase was in trouble at 226-5.
“It’s disappointing. We were in the game and I got out at a bad time,” de Villiers said.
The South Africans lost David Miller (3), Philander (1) and Dale Steyn (12) for 21 runs and trailed by 77 runs when Morne Morkel joined Farhaan Behardien in the middle.
Behardien was out for 12 in the 45th over, leaving South Africa 256-9. No. 11 Tahir could not bat after injuring his knee in the field and Australia was handed the win.
Smith’s total included a four hit from between his legs.
“I was able to close it out,” Smith said. ‘We played really well and never gave them much of a chance to get back in the game.”
Australia was playing without captain Michael Clarke, who has a hamstring injury which could keep him out of the upcoming test series against India, and Mitchell Johnson, who is being rested for the final three one-day matches to prepare him for India.
The last two one-day matches will be on Friday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and on Sunday in Sydney.