AB de Villiers played a match-winning knock alongside Faf du Plessis as they struck sublime centuries to help South Africa chase down a massive score of 328 to beat Australia by seven wickets in the second ODI of the triangular series on Wednesday.
The pair put on 206 for the third wicket, the highest South Africa partnership against Australia, as the Proteas reached their victory with 20 balls to spare at the Harare Sports Club home of series hosts Zimbabwe.
It eclipsed the 187 put on by Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith as they famously chased down 434 at The Wanderers in 2006, and was no less impressive for the skill shown by the pair as they scored all around the ground.
After South Africa won the toss and elected to bowl, Australia showed great acceleration at the end of their innings to post 327 for seven in 50 overs, with opener Aaron Finch crashing 102 from 116 balls. But it was not enough as the Proteas recovered from a wobble at 51 for two to reach their target with some ease on a wicket that got flatter as the day wore on.
For Du Plessis it was a first ODI century as he recorded 106 from 98 balls and made a mockery of recent criticism over his slow strike-rate in limited overs cricket with a fine display of finesse and power hitting.
Captain De Villiers rode his luck after offering simple chances to Mitchell Johnson and George Bailey that were dropped when he had 78 and 85 respectively, and battled on through severe cramp to score 136 not out from 106 balls.
“Haven’t scored a lot of runs lately and to score a few here is pleasing,” said De Villiers. “Had a lot of chances, and luckily I made it count.”
Earlier, Finch was the anchor for Australia’s innings as they again had to do without injured captain Michael Clarke, while stand-in skipper George Bailey struck a brisk 66 and Phillip Hughes a more patient 51.
Australian captain George Bailey said they did all the right things but South Africa were too good for them.
“We certainly had enough runs on the board, created enough chances, but hats off to Du Plessis and De Villiers for playing two extraordinary innings.”
Meanwhile, Du Plessis said he was happy with his century but wanted to end the game alongside De Villiers.
“Got my first Test hundred against Australia, and to get my first ODI hundred against them was even better,” said Du Plessis. “I’m very happy I got the opportunity to bat at three. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get over the line. With De Villiers cramping, it was important that I stay there till the end.”
The third game of the triangular series will be played on Friday when South Africa tackle Zimbabwe at the same venue. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM ESPNCRICINFO)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2014.
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