Steve Smith scored a brilliant century to dig Australia out of trouble in Melbourne, simultaneously wrapping up the ODI series against South Africa and ending a remarkable MCG hoodoo.
Smith’s 104 from 112 balls – along with outstanding lower-order support from Matthew Wade and James Faulkner – steered the hosts from a precarious 5-98 in the 25th over (effectively six down because of a hamstring injury to Nathan Coulter-Nile) to running down the Proteas’ seemingly modest total of 8-267 with one over to spare.
It was Australia’s maiden win over South Africa in an ODI at the MCG.
After choosing to bat first, the Proteas’ innings struggled to get going, but skipper AB de Villiers again played the anchor role. His superb 91 off 88 balls – including a 122-run stand for the fourth wicket with David Miller (45) – guided the tourists back into a respectable position. But after de Villiers departed, South Africa could only add 37 from the last seven overs.
Pat Cummins and Faulkner took two wickets each, while Mitchell Starc’s economical effort of 1-40 off 10 overs hemmed the Proteas in at each end of the innings.
David Warner (4) was trapped lbw by Kyle Abbott in the fourth over, before Shane Watson (19) and Aaron Finch (22) threw their wickets away. When George Bailey (16) and Glenn Maxwell (2) departed at the hands of Dale Steyn in the space of 11 balls, South Africa was well on top.
Wade (52 off 59 balls) and Smith picked up the tempo, adding an MCG-record 121 for the sixth wicket. But when the wicketkeeper fell to Wayne Parnell, Australia still needed 49 from 34 balls.
The irrepressible Faulkner was the ideal player for the situation, however. Smith’s gallant hundred included seven fours – Faulkner blasted six boundaries in his 19-ball knock of 34 not out.
Smith deserved a not out score, but he was bowled by Robin Peterson with the scores tied. Cummins picked off a single from the next ball – after a video referral to confirm Miller hadn’t taken a freakish catch – to seal an exciting win for Australia.
Sadly, a pathetic turnout of 14,117 took away from the atmosphere of Smith’s heroics.
Stud of the day
Steve Smith has gone from game one outcast to Australia’s World Cup trump card in the space of three appearances. His 73 off 55 in Canberra was brilliant, but this century was a clutch performance under a heap of pressure, and has – quite rightly – earned comparisons with limited-overs great Michael Bevan.
After a cautious start, Faulkner smashed back-to-back fours off the last two balls of a Dale Steyn over, taking Australia’s equation from an evenly-poised 29 from 20 balls to a box-seat 21 from 18 balls.
After a confidence-instilling series win over one of the powers of world cricket, the Aussies will be aiming to put their foot firmly on the Proteas’ throat in Sydney on Sunday – a 4-1 triumph would be a massive boost ahead of the World Cup.
Around the world
An intriguing Test in Dubai ended in a draw, but not before a few nervous moments for Pakistan. Beginning the day in trouble at 6-167 – a lead of just 177 after Pakistan’s pesky last-wicket stand of 81 – the Black Caps rallied to declare for 9-250, Ross Taylor bringing up his 12th Test century and lower-order slugger Tim Southee adding some handy runs with three sixes in a five-ball cameo.
With two and a half sessions remaining, both teams could have eyed off victory, but Pakistan’s cautious start – for the loss of only one wicket before lunch – seemed to signal a bland stalemate. But when Trent Boult struck twice and Mark Craig dismissed Azhar Ali all in the space of four overs, it got a bit interesting. Younis Khan (44) was the only subsequent wicket to fall, however, and the match finished in a draw, although New Zealand could perhaps be entitled to feeling they’d pulled off a moral victory given Pakistan’s devastating form of late.