The cool head of experienced campaigner Cameron White steered Australia to a thrilling two-wicket win with one ball remaining – and a series triumph – in the Twenty20 International decider against South Africa in Sydney.
The Protea scored 6-145 off their 20 overs after being sent in by Aaron Finch, but the total was a rank disappointment after Quinton de Kock (48) and Reeza Hendricks put on an opening stand of 75 in the opening nine overs.
De Kock was particularly impressive, cracking five boundaries and a pair of sixes in his 27-ball knock before the economical Pat Cummins found the breakthrough. But wickets fell regularly thereafter, with David Miller (34no) the only other South African batsman to score more than four.
James Faulkner stymied any chance of a late-innings charge by the Proteas, claiming three wickets in the 17th and 19th overs, while Cummins, Cameron Boyce and Doug Bollinger finished with one scalp apiece.
Australia again started strongly through Finch and Ben Dunk, clearing the short ANZ Stadium boundaries three times between them in the first four overs before Finch was dismissed for 33.
But when Dunk was out caught and bowled by Robin Peterson in the seventh over, and newcomer Nic Maddison and Shane Watson fell on consecutive balls, the hosts were in a spot of trouble at 4-62.
Glenn Maxwell (23 off 15 balls) and White came the rescue, putting on 38 for the fifth wicket, but White continued to lose partners at regular intervals.
Australia was cruising towards a comfortable victory when David Wiese had Cummins out caught and bowled and conceded just two runs in the 18th over, leaving the hosts with an equation of 10 runs from 12 balls with three wickets in hand.
White and youngster Sean Abbott took seven runs from the 19th over to ease the pressure. But when Abbott was trapped lbw by Proteas namesake Kyle Abbott in the third ball of the final over with two runs still required, the intensity ramped up again. No.10 Cameron Boyce picked off a dicey single from his first ball, however, before White chipped a good blockhole delivery away for the winning run.
Stud of the day
White once again proved his outstanding ability under pressure, scoring 41no off 31 balls to guide Australia to victory. The 31-year-old made a compelling case for World Cup inclusion, despite not having played an ODI since the 2011 tournament.
Stud of the series
Faulkner claimed Player of the Series honours thanks to his 41no in the convincing loss in the first game, and three-wicket efforts in the subsequent two wins.
Boyce’s first-ball single in the last over was the make or break moment. A direct hit would have seen the No.10 heading back to the pavilion, but Robin Peterson’s throw was off-target.
While it was an intriguing and entertaining T20 series, the return of both cricketing powerhouses’ superstars – and the looming World Cup – will ensure things get spicier in the five-match ODI series, which starts in Perth on Friday.
Around the cricketing world
After beating up on Australia, Pakistan are now sinking the boot into the Black Caps, cruising to 1-269 at stumps on Day 1 of the first Test in Abu Dhabi. Ahmed Shezhad finished unbeaten on 126, while opening partner Mohammad Hafeez fell four runs short of a century.
A superb 118 from Mahela Jayawardene was not enough to prevent Sri Lanka from sliding to a third straight convincing ODI defeat to India, with Shikhar Dhawan (91) and skipper Virat Kohli (53) the stars as the hosts ran down Sri Lanka’s 242 with almost six overs to spare. The win wrapped up the five-match series for India with two games remaining.