Australia defeated South Africa by five wickets in a low-scoring Super 12 Group 1 match of the ICC T20 World Cup in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Choosing to bowl first, the Australians were able to restrict the Proteas to 118/9 and managed to chase the total with two balls to spare on a slow wicket at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
Josh Hazlewood (2 for 19), the pick of the bowlers, was named the player-of-the-match.
“I think length was the key. The wicket seemed reasonably good. I think it was a little bit slow. I think in the day time, it plays a bit like that and at night it comes on a bit better, and it’s better for batting,” he said after the match.
While batting, South Africa got off to a good start with skipper Temba Bavuma smoking Mitchell Starc for boundaries.
But the Australians threw the spanner in the works as Glenn Maxwell bamboozled Bavuma (12) and Hazlewood nailed Rassie van der Dussen (2) with a peach of a delivery. Quinton de Kock (7) was out in a freak dismissal while flicking Hazlewood’s delivery, who in his two overs dismissed two batters by conceding just a run.
South Africa needed partnerships but the Australians kept picking regular wickets. Cummins joined the party by removing Heinrich Klaasen (13).
However, Aiden Markram along with David Miller prevented further damage even as bowlers dominated the proceedings. Adam Zampa ended the 33-run stand by trapping Miller (16) and then got Dwaine Pretorius (1). Keshav Maharaj (0) was run out as South Africa slipped to 83//7 by the end of 15 overs.
Markram continued to wage a lone fight and hit Hazlewood for a maximum. But Starc returned to end Markram’s innings (40 from 36 balls with a six to boot). There was no final flourish, barring a maximum smashed by Kagiso Rabada to push the score to 118.
While chasing, Australia suffered early setback as pacer Anrich Nortje removed Aaron Finch (0). David Warner (14) was caught off Rabada. Runs were hard to come by and the pressure paid off. Spinner Maharaj picked Mitchell Marsh (11).
Australians at the end of 8 overs were at 39/3.
The experienced pair of Maxwell and Steve Smith kept rotating the strike and finding odd boundaries, and keeping up with the required rate.
However, Smith (35), trying to strike Nortje for another four, was sensationally caught by a fully stretched Markram, ending a 42-run partnership.
The catch lifted the spirits in the camp. Soon, Tabraiz Shamsi bowled Maxwell (18). The required run rate zoomed. Matthew Wade smoked Rabada for two boundaries in an over. Along with a calm Marcus Stoinis, the pair steered Australia home with an unbeaten 40-run partnership from 26 balls.
Skipper Finch acknowledged that the match was a roller-coaster ride.
“It was quite stressful, obviously, anytime you are chasing a total and it is coming down to the wire, you are always going to be nervous but Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade did well to get us over the line.”
Skipper Bavuma noted their batting didn’t go as per plan and the team was resilient while defending a small total. “There was an opportunity for us to be resilient out there. Big efforts by the guys to get it to the last over. But obviously with the bat that was definitely not according to plan.”
Bavuma, praising the Australians, added: “They adapted to the conditions. Their spinners kept it tight. They didn’t give us an opportunity to build any momentum.”
It was an entertaining match for the fans at the stadium featuring the unique socially distanced family pods for the first time.
With the win, Australia top Group 1 with two points.
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