Proteas’ Unreal Chase To Victory

David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo both played the innings of their lives to see South Africa across the line for a four-wicket win over Australia with four balls to spare at Kingsmead on Wednesday evening to clinch the ODI Series by a 3-0 margin with two matches still to be played.  Miller made the third century of his ODI career (118 not out, 79 balls, 10 fours and six sixes) while Phehlukwayo made a career best 42 not out (39 balls, four fours and two sixes) as they shared a South African seventh-wicket record partnership against Australia of 107 runs, beating the previous best of 87 shared by legends Lance Klusener and Mark Boucher.  The target of 372 had seemed a distant dream when the pair came together with 107 still needed off the remaining 74 balls.

There was also the fact that Miller, after reaching 24 off his first 26 balls, suffered an apparent groin injury that severely incapacitated his ability to run quickly between the wickets.  But the pair refused to let this or anything else get them down and they achieved a winning score that was more than 100 runs better than the previous best.  Miller guided Phehlukwayo through the first part of his innings before the 20-year-old started to produce power hitting to match his far more experienced partner.

It has been a wonderful start to the youngster’s career as he took 4/44 in the first ODI against Australia and then followed it with this batting effort.  He was also one of the better South African bowlers on the day.  It is just as well that the Proteas have wrapped up the series this early as their injury list is continuing to rise.  

Before the series started they lost AB De Villiers, Morne Morkel and Chris Morris and before the start of today’s game Wayne Parnell was also ruled out of the rest of the series with a rib injury he suffered at the Wanderers Stadium.  And whether Miller will be able to play the remaining two matches remains to be seen.  Australia’s total looked defendable after the way their top three batsmen set up their total.

David Warner (117 off 107 balls, 13 fours and two sixes) and Steve Smith (108 off 107 balls, nine fours and a six) both scored centuries as Australia had successive partnerships of 110 and 124 to make their total possible.  There was also a significant combined contribution from Smith, Travis Head and Matthew Wade towards the end of the Australian innings as they smashed 71 between them off the last 34 balls.  The Proteas new ball attack of Dale Steyn (2/96) and Kagiso Rabada (1/86) took a real pasting, conceding 18 of the 31 fours and seven of the 10 sixes in the Australian innings.

The spinners and back-up seamers managed to pull the game back after Warner and Aaron Finch had put on 88 runs in the power play and 110 in an opening stand that lasted 13.1 overs.  It was a magnificent game of cricket played on a good pitch and outfield.  It represents the Proteas first win in a bilateral series against Australia since 2009 although they did win a triangular series against Australia in Zimbabwe just over two years ago.

It went without saying that Miller was named Man of the Match.  The result will move them significantly up the ICC ODI rankings from their current fourth place.