Australia win tight clash to claim series


Australia beat South Africa by three wickets at Kingsmead in Durban on Friday to win the three-match series 2-1.

Australia beat South Africa by three wickets at Kingsmead in Durban on Friday to win the three-match series 2-1.

After the two lopsided games at Centurion and Port Elizabeth, the finale proved to be a tight affair as South Africa could only manage 222 for six in their 50 overs. Australia had their moments when chasing, but Michael Hussey saw them to 227 for seven in 47.3 overs

The two innings certainly had a similar feel to them, with an early wicket followed by a good individual performance and some attritional stuff in the middle overs.

In Australia's reply, David Warner hit Morne Morkel for four but the lanky fast bowler hit back next ball as a bit of extra lift undid the opener as he edged it to the wicketkeeper.

Watson took over as the aggressor and made the pitch look like a good batting deck as he motored to 49 from 46 balls, but Jacques Kallis bowled him via an inside edge.

As was the case with South Africa, the wickets came in pairs and Ricky Ponting departed in the next over as he chipped a floater straight back to Johan Botha and the hosts were able to turn the screws.

Michael Clarke (26) and Shaun Marsh (30) bided their time with a 48-run stand but just as the runs started to come a bit more freely, the Australian skipper had a rush of blood to the head as he took a few steps down the ground to JP Duminy's first ball of the match. The end result was him heading back to the pavilion after an inside edge went onto his stumps via the pad. Marsh was also bowled by Duminy after he backed away too much.

While South Africa were looking to their young guns to push them to a decent score, Australia could turn to Hussey to finish the job for them. The veteran worked the ball around for ones and twos and allowed Brad Haddin, who was fortunate to get off the mark after his top edge dropped just short of the diving Dale Steyn, to hit the boundaries.

Haddin smashed a couple of sixes and two fours in his 25-ball 23 before picking out the man at deep cover. The damage was done though and Hussey (45 not out) eased them over the line with a six over deep midwicket.

Earlier a disciplined and inventive display from Australia's bowlers restricted South Africa to 222 for six.

Having won the toss and opted to bat first, South Africa looked set for another large total when they strode to 114 for one at the halfway point of their innings, but the hosts found themselves dragged back – first by left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty and then by the seamers at the back end of the innings.

While the slow nature of the pitch made the going tough for the Proteas and provided some turn for Doherty, Australia's fast bowlers used a combination of cleverly-disguised slower balls and good lengths to ensure that the home side were never able to launch from a promising position.

The pitch was certainly at its best early on, and Hashim Amla made the most of it as he finally found form to stroke six boundaries in the opening seven overs as he and Graeme Smith put on 58 for the first wicket.

Smith struggled to find the middle of the bat during his knock, and was eventually well caught by Michael Hussey at deep midwicket as the opener failed to sweep Doherty along the ground and departed for 19 from 36 balls.

Kallis took a four and a six off Doherty's next over to keep the Proteas on top, but the boundaries dried up thereafter. A healthy portion of singles kept the scoreboard ticking over, but Amla misjudged one shortly after reaching his half-century and was found short of his ground by a good Pat Cummins throw.

Doherty came to the fore from that point, and the Proteas were unable to inject any momentum back into their innings. Kallis went to fifty in 63 balls – his 13th half-century against Australia – but just four runs from his next 11 deliveries left him frustrated and he too found the fielder in the deep as he tried to sweep Doherty.

The arrival of the batting powerplay made little difference, with Duminy and Faf du Plessis managing just 21 runs from the five overs, and both departed as the search for quick runs in the final 10 overs proved difficult.

Du Plessis fell for 21 after misjudging a Cummins slower ball, while Duminy had just 35 from 58 balls when he slapped a Johnson delivery into the hands of Ponting at cow corner.

Even David Miller, the star of the show on Sunday in Port Elizabeth, struggled to find the boundary as he managed just 11 from 22 balls before the innings came to a close. Du Plessis admitted that the end of the South African innings that they were about 20 runs shy of a good target and it proved to be the case.

Watson walked away with the man of the match award while Hussey was named man of the series.