Rilee Rossouw, with his maiden ODI century against Australia, and JP Duminy set up South Africa for their 31-run win over Australia in the final ODI at Newlands on Wednesday but the evening nevertheless belonged to David Warner, even in defeat, who played one of the great innings to be witnessed at this historic ground. The Proteas thus clinched the series with a 5-0 whitewash, the first time they or anybody else has inflicted that statistic on the current world champions and puts some breathing space between themselves at number 2 on the ICC ODI ratings and third-placed New Zealand. Australia remain first and would have retained that status even if they had lost the ODI they played here against Ireland.
Rossouw (122 off 118 balls, 14 fours and two sixes) and Duminy (73 off 75 balls, eight fours) set up the Proteas total of 327/8 after three wickets had fallen up front for 52 with their fourth wicket stand of 178. This improved on the South African record against Australia of 121 set up by Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes and on the ground record of 150 established by Roger Twose and Chris Cairns for New Zealand. But the evening belonged to Warner who spearheaded a gallant chase that saw Australia become only the fourth team to post a total in excess of 300 at Newlands.
He should have been caught behind by Quinton De Kock off Kagiso Rabada on 11 and where that would have left Australia is a matter for conjecture. For those put more emphasis on entertainment than on the overall result it was something of a blessing in disguise. He finished with his ninth ODI century, his third against South Africa and the highest ever score for Australia against South Africa, beating Ricky Ponting’s 164 in the 438 game.
The bare statistic read as follows: 173 runs, 136 balls, 20 fours. Only three other batsmen reached double figures with nobody doing better than the 35 of Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head. What those statistics do not tell are his perfect combination of placement and power as he regularly stood outside the leg-stump and manufactured gaps either over or through the off-side field. He would have had to have made a double century for Australia to win as he ran out of reliable batting partners once Matthew Wade was dismissed.
The match was over when he was run out by Imran Tahir as it left a target of 40 off 17 balls with only numbers. 10 and 11 left at the crease. Imran was the other star for South Africa as his double strike in the space of three balls to remove Aaron Finch and Steve Smith put the Australians well behind the required rate and even the best of Warner did not get them quite back on track. He and Andile Phehlukwayo between them took 3/3 in 4 overs after Warner and Finch had put on a rapid 72 for the first wicket.
Even the free-flowing Warner was grounded for a while as no boundaries were scored for a period of 54 deliveries. Phehlukwayo again showed tremendous composure when called on to bowl at the end, contributing to the run out of Warner with a perfectly delivered slower ball out of the back of the hand. It was one delivery that Warner could not hit to the boundary and he was run out going for a second run that he simply had to attempt.
Warner was named Player of the Match and Rossouw Player of the Series.