Australia surged to a 2-1 lead in the ODI series with South Africa, chalking up a highly impressive 73-run victory in the third match at Canberra’s Manuka Oval on Wednesday.
The hosts racked up an imposing 5-329 after winning the toss and choosing to bat, while a stellar performance by the Mitchell Johnson-less bowling unit wrapped up the Proteas’ innings at 256 in the 45th over.
David Warner and Aaron Finch blasted an opening stand of 118 before Vernon Philander had Warner out for 53 off 50 balls. But Finch went on with the job to rack up a century, finally bowled by part-timer AB de Villiers in the 41st over. Finch’s 109 off 127 balls included nine boundaries and three sixes.
Shane Watson (40 off 38 balls) and the burgeoning Mitchell Marsh (22 off 13 balls) chipped in with handy contributions, but Steve Smith was ultimately the star of the innings. The 25-year-old, coming in at No.4, smashed a brilliant 73 not out off just 55 balls – including 25 off 11 balls in the last three overs to give the outstanding platform Finch and co laid a fitting finish.
South African openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock matched their Australian counterparts’ flying start, combining for a century opening stand while clicking along at six an over. But when Josh Hazelwood got rid of de Kock for 47, Australia’s young bowlers began to strangle the innings.
A superb 76-run partnership for the fourth wicket between Amla and in-form skipper de Villiers (52 from 34 balls) raised the Proteas’ hopes of running down the massive total, but Kane Richardson trapped de Villiers lbw and Hazelwood bowled Amla for a beautifully crafted 102 in the space of six balls to effectively stitch up the win.
Mitchell Starc mopped up the tail, finishing with 4-32 off eight overs before Hazelwood took his third wicket, that of Farhaan Behardien, to end the match. Imran Tahir was injured and did not bat.
Stud of the day
It seems absurd now that Steve Smith was left out of the side for the first ODI, only coming into the line-up for game two after Michael Clarke succumbed to injury. Smith’s masterly knock confirmed he is a must-pick for the World Cup.
Newcomer Kane Richardson battled back gamely after being carted for 28 off his initial three-over spell, conceding just another 21 runs from his subsequent five overs – and taking the wicket of danger-man de Villiers proved a turning point, snuffing out South Africa’s rally.
Australia can wrap up the series and take a huge psychological advantage into the World Cup with a win in the fourth ODI at the MCG on Friday.
Australia has set a 300-plus target on home soil 26 times – and has won on all 26 occasions. This match also marked just the 12th time in ODI history that both opening pairs have posted century opening stands in the same game.
Around the world
Finally, after destroying Australia 2-0 and carving out a similarly dominant win over New Zealand in the first Test, Pakistan is finding the going a little bit tough in the UAE. In the second Test at Dubai, the Black Caps posted a first-innings total of 403 thanks to an impressive 137 by opener Tom Latham and a wagging tail, before claiming both openers to have Pakistan at 2-34 at stumps on day two. Azhar Ali (75) and Younis Kahn (72) continued their outstanding form in a 113-run stand, but New Zealand chipped away to restrict Pakistan to 6-281 at the end of day three. A win is still a long way off for the Kiwis, but even a draw would be something of a moral victory given Pakistan’s ruthless form of late.