T20 World Cup: Australia open campaign with hard-fought win over South Africa

Aussies chase down 119-run target with two balls to spare in Abu Dhabi

Australia were made to fight for victory in the opening clash of the T20 World Cup Super 12 stage as they overcame South Africa in a low-scoring contest at the Zayed Cricket stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

They did the first part well to restrict their opponents to 118-9. And despite losing their way towards the end of the chase, Australia sealed a five-wicket win with a couple deliveries to spare.

Steve Smith (35) and Glen Maxwell (18) shared a 42-run stand for the fourth wicket before Marcus Stoinis (24) and Matthew Wade (15) took them over the line with an unfinished 40-run partnership for the sixth wicket.

Having elected to field first, the Australian attack bowled consistently throughout the innings to keep a lid on South Africa's scoring.

Maxwell was the unlikely bowler to provide the breakthrough. He got one through the defence of the South African captain Temba Bavuma in the second over, and they were soon in trouble at 46-4 in eight overs after strikes from Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.

“I think length was the key, hitting the right length, just on top of the stumps,” Hazlewood said.

“Anything slightly short or fuller seemed easy. The wicket seamed reasonably good, but it was a little bit slow.

“It plays that way during the day and gets easier at night. We've got a number of all-rounders there and Maxi was the man today to bowl the four. It sort of got close in the end but we've got finishers and we were confident in them.”

Australia, in reply, were three down for 38 in the eighth over after Aaron Finch, the captain, fell to Anrich Nortje in the second over before Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj had both David Warner and Mitchell Marsh back in the dugout.

“The dugout was probably a bit more relaxed than I was,” Australian captain Finch said of the win.

“Stoinis and Wade kept their cool there. It's what experience can do. Maxwell did a really good job.

“In the end we needed a bit of luck to go our way and we got it.”

Aiden Markram was the stand-out batsman in the South African innings. He stroked a 36-ball 40 and was eighth out at 98 in the 18th over. Rabada chipped in with a useful 23-ball 19 not out but the rest of the batting failed to fire.

“We want to talk about us being resilient, big effort by the guys getting it to the last over,” Bavuma said of the South African fight back.

“With the bat - that was definitely not according to plan. Good effort by the bowlers to get it to that stage.

“I think Australia bowled well. They adjusted to conditions, hitting that back of the length. Their spinners too, they didn't give us anything.

“Credit to Aiden, but as a batting team, definitely not to plan. As much as it isn't a day that didn't go to plan, there are positives to take from it. We spoke about it at half time that we weren't going to leave anything out there.”

Updated: October 23rd 2021, 2:37 PM