South Africa 5 for 320 (Miller 139, du Plessis 125) v Australia
South Africa’s captain Faf du Plessis joined the powerful David Miller for the highest partnership in all ODIs between their country and Australia to set the home side a daunting 321 for victory to win the three-match series at Bellerive Oval in Hobart.
Having lost three early wickets after being sent in by Aaron Finch, du Plessis and Miller provided a model exhibition of how to build a dominant position from modest beginnings, getting well established through steady accumulation before accelerating in brutal fashion in the closing overs of the innings. Their stand of 252 surpassed a union of 222 between Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan, at Docklands in 2000, as the biggest ever stand in Australia v South Africa ODIs.
Both batsmen gathered momentum but offered contrasting styles and preferred scoring areas to give the Australian bowlers no end of headaches. The closing moments of the partnership were virtually a free-for-all, with 51 runs coming from the final 15 balls that du Plessis and Miller were together before the captain’s dismissal.
Having begun soundly with the new ball, all the bowlers were to face varying degrees of punishment. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins’ final overs each went for 20, while Marcus Stoinis’ two wickets came at a cost of 10 runs per over. It all meant that Finch’s side would have to summon a level of quality batting that they have not recently been able to reach since the bans imposed on Steven Smith and David Warner, save for the remarkable Test century in Dubai by the injured Usman Khawaja.
Seeking to complement their drought-breaking win in Adelaide on Friday, Australia named an unchanged XI but Finch indicated they would be shuffling their batting order by moving Chris Lynn up to open. South Africa were also unchanged, retaining the allrounder Dwaine Pretorius at No. 7.
On a fine, cool afternoon, there was a modicum of early assistance in the pitch for Australia’s pacemen with the new ball, something Starc exploited to perfection with a delivery seaming away just enough to take the outside edge of Quinton de Kock’s bat. While keeping an initial clamp on South Africa’s run rate, Australia were subsequently to benefit from a pair of leg glances into the gloves of Alex Carey.
The first, from Reeza Hendricks, meant his dismissal by Stoinis for the second time in as many innings, and the second from Aiden Markram, after he had swished a trio of sixes, gave Starc a second wicket from as many spells. Left an uncertain 3 for 55 in the 16th over, du Plessis and Miller needed to rebuild carefully, something they did with the aid of a pitch starting to settle down – save for one Starc delivery that leapt off a length at the South African captain’s gloves.
Gradually, du Plessis and Miller lifted their momentum, aided by a pair of narrow escapes against the offspin of Glenn Maxwell. First, du Plessis attempted to force Maxwell through the off side on 29, and the resulting thin edge was dropped by Carey – a rare blemish on his usually exemplary glovework. Then, Miller was pinned on the crease and given lbw by Aleem Dar, only for du Plessis to request a decision review at the last possible moment of the 15 available seconds. Ball-tracking was to show the ball hitting in line but bouncing fractionally over the leg stump, meaning a reprieve on 41 for Miller, and more than a few befuddled Australian faces.
These moments of fortune allowed the stand to grow to alarming dimensions for Australia, as each batsman was able to clear the boundary. Estimations of South Africa’s tally were duly revised more than once, with the rate climbing from a humble 3.5 after 18 overs to well beyond the six mark. In all, 130 runs were piled up from the final 10 overs, 75 from the last five.
Du Plessis was first to reach his century with a shovel to the leg side and a composed celebration. Miller followed him with an upper cut to the third man boundary the very next over and a more ebullient showing of emotion, vindicating his promotion to No. 5 in the order. A few percussive blows later and the visitors had piled up their highest ever ODI score against Australia on their patch.