DURBAN (Agencies): Australia swept the T20I series 3-0 with another dominant performance in Durban. They completed their sixth-highest successful chase in the format after South Africa recovered from 122 for 6 in the 14th over to post a competitive target but then dropped four catches in defence.
Travis Head (on 53 and 55) and Josh Inglis (on 12 and 40) were put down twice each and shared in an 85-run third-wicket stand to steady Australia after two early losses. Inglis was dismissed for 42 but Head went on to put on 58 with Marcus Stoinis and finish with 91 to put victory beyond doubt.
South Africa will be frustrated with their inability to do enough to challenge Australia, despite fielding an experimental XI throughout the series. Their team had two debutants this time, and there were four across the three matches. Of those, Donovan Ferreira was the most successful and scored 48 runs off 21 balls to give their innings heft.
Earlier, Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram put on 58 for the second wicket and Hendricks and Tristan Stubbs’ third-wicket stand was worth 46 but no other partnership got past 11 runs. Sean Abbott followed up well from Marcus Stoinis’ start and only Nathan Ellis conceded at more than 10 runs an over.
Stoinis starts well again
Stoinis was tasked with opening the bowling once again today and he delivered. On a surface that Mitchell Marsh described as “tacky”, Stoinis’ second ball seemed to stick before it kicked up to catch the edge of Temba Bavuma’s dangling bat. Head took a well-judged catch diving forward to send Bavuma back for his second first-baller of the series. Stoinis stuck to hard lengths in his second over but debutant Matthew Breetzke was in too much of a hurry to see him off. Breetzke tried to hit Stoinis over mid-on but spliced the ball straight to Tim David. South Africa were 12 for 2 in the third over.
Abbott for Australia
Ellis took a double-wicket maiden to end South Africa’s powerplay in the second match, and Abbott repeated the feat in the 14th over of the final fixture to pin the hosts back. Stubbs looked dangerous on 25 off 15 balls and looked to hit a full ball through deep midwicket for a couple but lofted it to the fielder stationed there. Three balls later, Abbott disguised his slower ball, and Bjorn Fortuin chipped it to Marsh at short extra cover. By that stage, South Africa had lost three wickets in seven balls and were in trouble at 122 for 6.
The fifth-most expensive player at the SA20 auction last year finished with a batting average of 18.22 and three wickets at the tournament. But he showed his worth on his first international outing with an innings of authority. His first runs came when he danced down the track to send Tanveer Sangha over long-on for six before watching wickets fall at the other end. With consolidation needed, Ferreira took matters into his own hands. He hit Sangha for six again and then took 15 runs off Stoinis’ final over and 12 off Nathan Ellis. The shot of his innings was the 92-metre six he hit over extra cover off Ellis, which he smacked with full power before holding the pose to admire his own work.
South Africa had to wait for the third match before they saw the back of the Australian captain and they managed it fairly early in the innings. Marsh ensured Australia moved on quickly from the first ball dismissal of Matthew Short and scored three successive boundaries off Lizaad Williams’ opening over and looked set to dominate again. But his attempt to send Gerald Coetzee over the midwicket only got the toe-end of the bat and went high up in the air. Fortuin settled under it and took a good catch as South Africa breathed a collective sigh of relief. Marsh’s average in this series? Only an eye-watering 186.
South Africa’s premier left-arm spinner ruptured his Achilles tendon less than six months ago and was expected to be out of action for the rest of the year. But, in the 19th over of South Africa’s innings, he strode to the middle with his team on 176 for 7 to try and finish strong. He hit the last ball of the innings over Ellis’ head for six. Welcome back. Of course, batting is not the reason we were all waiting to see Maharaj and all eyes were on him when South Africa took the field.
He pulled off a fine stop in the powerplay to deny Head a boundary and was soon called on to bowl. Maharaj could have had a wicket with his second ball but Josh Inglis was put down on 12. That over went on to cost 20.
In terms of numbers and results, Maharaj won’t be happy with the way things went. But just the fact that he got onto the park, played some shots and turned his arm over made this day a success for him, who is likely to be named in the ODI World Cup squad on Tuesday.