George Bailey and Nathan Coulter-Nile were the star performers in Australia’s 32-run win over South Africa in the opening ODI at the WACA, although the hosts’ impressive performance was soured by a hamstring injury to captain Michael Clarke.
The recurring ailment has Clarke, who watched Australia’s fine effort in the field from the stands, in doubt for the remainder of the series.
Australia was sent in to bat, but David Warner (46) and Aaron Finch (35) made a blazing start, pushing the innings forward at better than a run a ball during the first 15 overs before both openers were dismissed by Vernon Philander with the score on 94.
Shane Watson and Clarke fell cheaply, and Australia was at a crossroads at 5-144 in the 30th over. But Bailey, a contentious selection ahead of Steve Smith, righted the ship, putting on 92 for the sixth wicket with Matthew Wade before he was caught off Dale Steyn’s bowling on 70.
Bailey was dropped four times as South Africa put down a string of costly chances.
Wade’s cautious 35 and Glenn Maxwell’s rapid 29 off 23 balls saw Australia through to 8-300, with Philander the pick of the Proteas bowlers with 4-45.
Mitchell Johnson put the hosts on the front foot by having openers Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla caught behind, leaving South Africa reeling at 2-18.
The Proteas struggled to get any momentum until AB de Villiers came to the crease. The skipper successfully overturned an lbw call early in his innings to craft a superb 126-run, fifth-wicket partnership with David Miller.
But Miller’s fine innings of 65 off 83 balls came to an end with the score at 202, and the Proteas capitulated, losing their next four wickets – including de Villiers, run out by sub fielder Smith for 80 after a mix-up with tailender Steyn – for just an extra 20 runs.
Coulter-Nile was the chief destroyer, dismissing Miller before having Ryan McLaren and Steyn out caught behind to finish his best ODI figures of 4-48. Wade ended up with five catches.
A stoic last-wicket stand of 48 by Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir delayed the inevitable, the Proteas all out for 268 in the first ball of the 49th over.
Stud of the match
Coulter-Nile’s four wickets spearheaded Australia’s victory, breaking up the de Villiers-Miller partnership and ramming home the advantage with another two scalps to virtually seal the victory. He was also Australia’s most economical bowler after Johnson.
Some clever bowling from local lad Coulter-Nile lured Miller into a soft dismissal, caught at mid-on by Mitchell Marsh. The Proteas has gained the ascendancy, but Miller’s departure sparked a spectacular collapse and it was soon all over for the tourists.
Clarke’s injury aside, it was a bright start to the series from Australia – a strong all-round team effort. Steve Smith seems the obvious candidate to come in for Clarke if the skipper fails to recover from his injury in time for the second encounter at the WACA on Sunday. Pace will rule again it seems, with Coulter-Nile, Johnson, Philander and Steyn causing consistent problems for the batsmen.
Matthew Wade claimed five dismissals for the third time in his ODI career, just one short of the all-time wicketkeeping record, which has been achieved 14 times. Incredibly, Adam Gilchrist – who became the first wicketkeeper to bag six dismissals in an ODI innings in 2000 – is responsible for six of those 14 record efforts behind the stumps.