Australia defend 231 to achieve series parity



Stoinis picked up 3 for 35 to help Australia defend a low total. © Getty

Adelaide proved to be a happy hunting ground in a year of much starvation for Australia, as they recorded just their second ODI victory in 2018 – coming at the same venue – to put an end to their worst losing streak in the 50-over format – lasting seven matches. The victory also ensured the three-match home series against South Africa won’t be relinquished before they take the field in the third and final encounter in Hobart on Sunday.

Aaron Finch spoke about the ‘turning of the wheel’ ( at the end of his team’s defeat in the first ODI, and turn it did. For a while, Finch was at the helm of the change along with Shaun Marsh, who overcame a minor injury to replace D’Arcy Short. The pair added 51 runs for the second-wicket in a show of solidity at the top of the order, before South Africa’s first-change bowler Kagiso Rabada worked his magic. Once this partnership was broken – Marsh edging to Quinton de Kock – the nervousness in Australia’s batting showed throughout.

After throwing away wickets to Andile Phehlukwayo – the lesser pacer operating alongside the high-octane trio of Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Dale Steyn – in Perth, Australia gifted wickets to his replacement in Adelaide, Dwaine Pretorius – who finished with figures of 3 for 32.

Australia’s sedate innings received a boost when Chris Lynn decided he’d had enough of taking on a restrained role with the bat in hand, and signalled his intentions loud and clear with a smashing six over extra cover of Rabada. Three fours would follow in the next three balls – over the bowler’s head, behind point and through mid-wicket. The fighter that Rabada is, he dug one short again, almost as if taunting Lynn to go after him. The Aussie took the bait and ended up gloving the ball to de Kock in a failed attempt to hook the ball away. From 133 for 4 in the 27th over, Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey didn’t succeed in their task of resurrection when Maxwell gave his wicket away to an unsuspecting Pretorius delivery that didn’t quite seem lethal. Two overs later, Stoinis would repeat Maxwell’s mistake and offer Pretorius his third scalp, leaving Australia precariously placed on 170 for 6.

Dale Steyn resumed his strong return to the international fold with a performance that should have the selectors talking – or even just whispering – about taking the sensational pacer to England for the World Cup. The injuries are gone and the pace is back, as Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc learnt in their cheap dismissals. Alex Carey’s lone fight also ended just after he’d taken the team past the 200-run mark, after which Adam Zampa and Josh Hazlewood dragged the team with the further addition of 27 runs – which at the conclusion of the fixture appear like gold dust.

Even with a wobbly start following Quinton de Kock’s exit in the fifth over, South Africa were still overwhelming favourites to resign Australia to a home series defeat even before the last game is played. Even as the ball swung under lights, there were signs – like Aiden Markram absolutely pasting a 151kmph Starc delivery over the long on fence with utter conviction and sublime timing – to suggest that Australian bowlers had quite a task at hand. Starc cranked up the pace and had his average pace skyrocketed, but Markram and Hendricks resumed building their second-wicket partnership. A poor decision to scramble across for a third run after Hendricks played one towards midwicket brought an end to their alliance, sending Markram back despite his desperate diving effort to make his ground. Josh Hazlewood sent Hendricks packing in just the following over, with a ball that the opener just couldn’t keep from edging.

When Klaasen fell in the 15th over, South Africa’s fallibility in the face of a tense chase seemed to be back to drag the team down. Faf du Plessis and David Miller fought to rubbish that ill-reputed tag, and put on 74 runs off just 88 balls, keeping South Africa on course.

Just when the game appeared to be slipping away from Australia’s grasp, Finch took a fantastic punt that paid rich dividends. He decided to bowl Cummins for his eighth over in the 30th – a desperate attempt that brought the match-turning breakthrough. Du Plessis fell trying to cut away from the body ended in him playing the ball on, and giving Australia an opening to change the course of the game.

Finch set tight fields to new man Pretorius, and denied him singles to lap up the pressure on the chasers. After enjoying the first half of the game with three wickets to his name, Pretorius endured a tortured stay in the middle with the bat – falling for a 32-ball 14.

David Miller kept the South African flame flickering with an 11th ODI fifty, but a charged up Stoinis had him trapped leg before at an immensely crucial juncture. The passionate cries for approval was turned down, when Finch decided to back his bowler and go upstairs. Australia stood vindicated, Miller crestfallen as Australia seized complete control of the game.

The equation came down to South Africa needing 20 off the final over with Glenn Maxwell handed the ball as Finch bowled all his frontline bowlers out. Imran Tahir sneaked a four off the first ball to raise hopes of a late, late comeback, but Maxwell did enough to secure a win by seven runs.

Brief scores: Australia 231 in 48.3 (Alex Carey 47; Kagiso Rabada 4-54) beat South Africa 224/9 in 50 overs (David Miller 51; Marcus Stoinis 3-35) by seven runs.

© Cricbuzz


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