A superb spell of reverse-swing bowling from Dale Steyn and another fluent innings from Faf du Plessis helped South Africa cruise to a six-wicket victory over Australia in the final of the triangular series at the Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
Steyn took key wickets in recording figures of 4-34 as the Proteas limited Australia to 217-9 in their 50 overs. South Africa always looked in control of their reply as Du Plessis finished with 96, just missing out on his fourth century in five matches and third in the series against Australia.
The Proteas passed their victory target with 55 balls to spare to win the One-day International series that also involved Zimbabwe. Both sides had spoken of the importance of this series in the build-up to next year’s 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. “The fact that we are starting to win games under pressure shows we are on the right track, but there is definitely room for improvement,” Proteas captain AB de Villiers said at the post-match presentation. “We will try to get things 100 per cent for the big tournament (World Cup).”
After South Africa had asked Australia to bat, they managed to contain the run rate and pick up wickets at regular intervals. Both slow-bowling options worked well, with off-spinner Aaron Phangiso going for 36 in his 10 overs and leg-spinner Imran Tahir recording figures of 1-40.
But the Australians were put on the back foot when Steyn returned for a second spell midway through the innings. He bowled opener Aaron Finch for 54 with a vicious inswinging delivery and did the same on the very next ball to trap the dangerous Glenn Maxwell leg before wicket.
That triggered an Australian collapse that left them floundering on 144-8, before James Faulkner (39) and Mitchell Starc (29 not out) put on 71 for the ninth wicket to add some respectability to the score.
“We were 70 to 80 runs short, but we were outplayed,” Australia captain George Bailey said. “It was challenging to bat first, but once again, credit to South Africa, their spinners were tight and their top four almost all got starts.”
The Proteas looked to be positive from the start in their reply and after the early loss of Quinton de Kock (seven), Hashim Amla and Du Plessis added 98 for the second wicket with the Test captain out for 51. An experiment to move Wayne Parnell up the order as a pinch-hitter was a failure as he took 24 balls to score just six while AB de Villiers took just 41 deliveries for his 57 not out to make a mockery of the plan.
Du Plessis, named Man of the Series, was out four runs short of his hundred, caught by Faulkner at mid-on, off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson, with the scores level.
“I’ve been hitting the ball well and definitely it (number three) is a position where I get the time to set up my innings. I’m getting used to the role now and beginning to enjoy it,” Du Plessis said.
Brief scores: Australia: 217/9 in 50 overs (A Finch 54, J Faulkner 39; D Steyn 4/34). South Africa: 221/4 in 40.5 overs (F du Plessis 96, AB de Villiers 57 n.o., H Amla 51). South Africa won by six wickets.