Australia recovered from the setback of Michael Clarke’s early injury and held off a determined counterattack from AB de Villiers to beat South Africa by 32 runs Friday in the limited-overs series opener.
George Bailey stood in for captain Clarke, who injured his left hamstring while batting, top-scoring with 70 in a total of 300-8, and then cycling through his bowlers to successfully defuse South Africa’s run chase.
Paceman Mitchell Johnson (2-38), voted International Cricket Council player of the year earlier Friday, had openers Quinton de Kock (2) and Hashim Amla (8) caught behind in a fiery opening spell before South Africa recovered from 18-2 through Faf du Plessis.
But the South Africans were in trouble again at 76-4 when du Plessis (31) was out hooking Shane Watson, a ball after clouting the Australian allrounder over the deep square boundary for six.
De Villiers (80), who successfully challenged an lbw decision on 13, and David Miller (65) combined for a 126-run fifth-wicket partnership that put South Africa in control until Nathan Coulter-Nile (4-48) swung momentum back in Australia’s favor with two wickets in three balls.
He removed Miller to a miscued drive and Ryan McLaren (0) caught behind, and Josh Hazlewood chimed in with the wicket of Vernon Philander (1), also caught behind on a decision review, before de Villiers was run out needlessly to end his defiant 76-ball innings.
South Africa was eventually out for 268 in the 49th over, with Morne Morkel unbeaten on 22.
The Australians had a stop-start innings after losing the toss and being sent in.
After a cautious start, David Warner (46) and Aaron Finch (35) raced to 94 before both openers were dismissed within three balls from Philander (4-45).
Clarke scratched around for 11 before he was caught behind, gloving an attempted pull shot off Dale Steyn to give the South African paceman the upper hand in their acrimonious rivalry.
Clarke injured his left hamstring in the process, for the third time since August, and was sidelined for the rest of the match. He was due to undergo scans on Saturday to determine the extent of the damage.
Bailey, who was dropped twice on 2 and again on 38 and 47, was eventually well caught in the deep by du Plessis to give Steyn (2-62) his second wicket.
He shared an important partnership with Matthew Wade (35), while Glenn Maxwell contributed 29 as Australia piled on 104 in the last 10 overs.
Bailey is expected to lead Australia in the absence of Clarke, with vice-captain Brad Haddin also missing the series after injuring his shoulder in the 2-0 test series loss to Pakistan last month.
Clarke said he’d do everything he could to return to the field as soon as possible, with a four-test series against India next month, and the World Cup looming.
“I’ve had this injury three times in the same leg in the past six weeks,” Clarke said during the TV broadcast. “Early in my innings I took off for a run and just felt it grab. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’s not that bad. We’re in for a great summer. I just hope I can be a part of it.”