Marsh blitz puts total out of reach for SA

A valiant 109-ball 126 from Faf du Plessis came in vain as South Africa were bowled out 62 runs short of Australia's 282 for seven at the Harare Sports Club on Tuesday.

A valiant 109-ball 126 from Faf du Plessis came in vain as South Africa were bowled out 62 runs short of Australia's 282 for seven at the Harare Sports Club on Tuesday.

The impressive all-round batting and bowling performance by Australia represented a great turnaround in that team's fortunes since their embarrassing loss to Zimbabwe on Sunday and also booked them a place in the final against South Africa on Saturday.

Zimbabwe will now have a sliver of hope when they contest the last group match of the tournament against the Proteas on Thursday, but will need to beat the Proteas by a massive margin.

Du Plessis literally went about the battle on his own as his next highest scoring teammate was Ryan McLaren (24). Seven of those men did not make double figures as South Africa were bowled out for 220 and Australia were given a bonus-point victory.

Earlier the Proteas won what was deemed to be a good toss due to the fact that the wicket tends to improve as the day goes on after these 9am coin-flips.

Much of the first innings was a good contest between bat and ball and South Africa appeared well on top when Australia took their batting powerplay prematurely at the 30-over mark and found themselves behind the drag line at 152 for four after 35 overs at a ground where South Africa successfully chased 327 in their last encounter.

Phil Hughes (85 off 92 balls) had helped lay a solid foundation before a cluster of middle order wickets was brought on, largely by the pick of SA's bowlers Aaron Phangiso (2/39 in 10 ov.), but it was a brutal onslaught by Mitchell Marsh (86 off 51 balls) that helped Australia get beyond a below-par score. Marsh was named man of the match for a devastating innings that boasted three sixes in a row off Dale Steyn and seven sixes in total.

Australia batted, bowled and fielded with an intensity that seemed lacking on Sunday when the hosts pulled off a heist that was their first win over the Aussies in 31 years.

They may have been rescued by Marsh's cameo but it was nonetheless a fine team performance that saved them from what might have been a shameful early exit from the triangular tournament. A tweet from Rodney Hogg failed to shed light on the matter as the player who took part in that loss said, "At least when Zimbabwe beat us in '83 we were drinking cans (of beer) the night before. And lots of them." Many a true word spoken a jest.

Du Plessis' hundred was his second in as many matches against Australia in this series and while it largely came against the run of play, his impressive form and growth in stature as a middle-order rock and aggressor can not be ignored.

Australia might have only one mainline spinner in Nathan Lyon (1/53 )at a ground where spinners are relied upon but Glenn Maxwell (2/22) gave admiral back up in the slow-bowling department today.

Seamers Mitchell Johnson (2/30), Kane Richardson (2/38) and Mitch Marsh (2/23) bowled good lines and struck at regular intervals. Mitch Johnson clean bowled Dave Miller (3) and Morne Morkel (0) in style.

A fair crowd gathered for what was nearly a very exciting finish. I chatted to one beer-drinking local in the bar who said that Sunday was one of his happiest moments at "the best ground in world cricket" but "you know what?" he asked me… "It's even more fun on a Tuesday."

<b>Nick Sadleir in Harare</b>