Matthew Hayden hit the World Cup's fastest ton to help Australia exact revenge in another remarkable run-fest against SA.
Matthew Hayden plundered the World Cup's fastest hundred to help Australia exact a sweet revenge in another remarkable run-fest against South Africa.
Reprising the near 900-run epic of their last meeting, in Johannesburg last year, the world's top two one-day sides engaged in another boundary-laden tussle.
But this time, on the most important stage, it was the tournament favourites who prevailed by 83 runs in a Group A decider which gives the Aussies two precious winning points to take into the Super Eights.
Hayden (101) was the initial driving force behind Australia's 377 for six, the third-highest total in World Cup history.
South Africa then appeared capable of matching them almost run for run while an opening stand of 160 was under way between AB de Villiers (92) and Graeme Smith (74).
But a spectacular piece of outfielding from Shane Watson – running out De Villiers – provided a major turning point and after Smith had to interrupt his innings for 15 overs because of cramp, South Africa could not stay with the required rate without taking too many risks.
The last nine wickets therefore fell for only 74 runs, leaving South Africa 294 all out with two overs unused in an otherwise even contest which had promised to end in a much tighter finish.
Hayden, Michael Clarke (92) and Ricky Ponting (91) earlier made the most of perfect batting conditions – and Warner Park's small boundaries – after Australia were put in.
The opener's century took just 66 balls and contained 14 fours and four sixes as he set the pace in a first-wicket stand of 106 with Adam Gilchrist.
Ponting and Clarke then put on 161 in 22 overs for the third wicket, the Australia captain falling short of a record fifth World Cup hundred and his partner just missing three figures too.
There were 56 runs on the board after just five overs – and although short periods of consolidation followed, the rate of scoring remained mostly manic. The first breakthrough was sorely and urgently needed by South Africa – and it came in unlikely fashion, Gilchrist guiding a cut shot into the hands of Herschelle Gibbs at point off Charl Langeveldt.
Hayden still had not played a single false shot – and did not until on 77 he under-edged an attempted pull at Langeveldt for four past his stumps and wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, standing up.
Among his barrage of brutal hits, and clever placement when required, were successive sixes off the new-ball bowling of the ultra-reliable Shaun Pollock – a surefire indication that these teams were inhabiting a batsmen's paradise, and bowlers' nightmare.
Ponting nonetheless needed seven balls to get off the mark, before announcing – with a six over long-on off Andrew Hall – that he was ready to join in.
Hayden duly reached his hundred with a six off Smith's part-time off spin, only to depart – to an even tamer aerial cut than Gilchrist's, from a slow long-hop in Jacques Kallis' first over.
Ponting and Clarke needed a little time to gather momentum.
Each might have been run out, or even caught via half-chances, before reaching 50 as South Africa's famed fielding fell slightly below its usual meteoric standards.
Gibbs produced the only real clanger, though, dropping a simple chance given by Clarke off Hall to point when he had 56.
Ponting eventually went to a catch at long-on off Makhaya Ntini – and Clarke was run out after Andrew Symonds called for a single and then sent him back.
But Australia still bagged 89 runs for four wickets in the final 10-over bash, to post their own second-best one-day international score.
If anyone thought the total was impregnable, the delusion did not last long once Smith and De Villiers got started.
The latter wasted no time setting about the Australia attack, unfurling a succession of memorably-timed back-foot shots – beginning with a pull off Nathan Bracken from the fifth ball of the innings for the first of his two sixes, to go with 14 fours from 70 balls.
He never looked back until he was run out by Watson's direct hit from deep square-leg as he tried to scamper a second run.
South Africa's chase faltered from that moment.
A wonderful piece of left-arm wrist-spin bowling and wicketkeeping combined for the stumping of Gibbs, pushing forward to Brad Hogg the ball after he had hit him for six – and losing his balance when the googly turned away from him.
An alert Gilchrist did the rest – kickstarting the fall of regular wickets, which left number three Kallis unable to do the job on his own.
When Smith returned he could add only two more runs before a faulty sweep; then Kallis was caught in the deep two short of his 50 to become a third victim for Hogg – who along with Shaun Tait deserved most praise among the Australia bowlers.
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