HARARE // An unbeaten century from an ailing AB de Villiers carried South Africa to a seven-wicket victory over Australia in the second game of a one-day triangular series yesterday.
De Villiers overcame fatigue and severe cramps in his left leg to hit 136 not out as South Africa chased down a target of 328 with 20 balls to spare.
The South African captain was supported by Faf du Plessis, who scored his first one-day ton as he contributed 106 in a 206-run partnership for the third wicket.
South Africa’s task seemed formidable when they lost openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock with just 54 runs on the board, but De Villiers and Du Plessis made it look easy.
As the pitch flattened out under the afternoon sun, the pair dispatched Australia’s pace-heavy attack to all corners as they scored at more than seven runs per over.
Although Du Plessis fell to Mitchell Starc shortly after reaching his landmark, by that stage South Africa required less than a run a ball and JP Duminy stroked an unbeaten 33 to aid the limping De Villiers.
While Australia were left to regret the two chances they gave to De Villiers – he was put down on 78 and 85 – their decision to leave out specialist spinner Nathan Lyon also looked ill-advised.
“We were all quite surprised by that,” De Villiers said. “On the other hand, on a wicket that has a bit of moisture in it, if they only play six batters, then we could run through them. So that’s probably the way they looked at it. They wanted to make sure they had enough batting.
“Looking back now, they probably would have played Nathan.”
Imran Tahir was able to hold up the Australian innings with his legspin, breaking a 92-run opening stand when he dismissed Phillip Hughes for 51 and following it up with the wicket of Mitchell Marsh.
Tahir finished with figures of 2 for 45 from his 10 overs, despite a robust century from opener Aaron Finch, whose 102 helped Australia to a total of 327 for seven.
Finch’s fourth one-day hundred in the past 12 months was well-supported by Hughes and stand-in captain George Bailey, who made 66 and continued to lead the Australians in the absence of the injured Michael Clarke.
However, once the 114-run partnership between Finch and Bailey was broken by Ryan McLaren, Australia struggled to fully cash in on their strong start.
Morne Morkel dismissed both Bailey and Glenn Maxwell, which limited the damage done in the last 10 overs to cameos from Steve Smith and Mitchell Johnson.
That meant that South Africa were ultimately able to cruise.
“I certainly think (327) could have been enough, but knowing that it’s a pretty good wicket and only having four fielders out and two new balls, it’s always going to be a challenge,” Bailey said.
“You’ve got to keep trying to find a way to take wickets, and unfortunately, we couldn’t do that.”
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