The Proteas put in a polished collective effort to end their 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup on a high with a narrow 10-run victory over semi finalists Australia at Old Trafford in Manchester on Saturday.
A century from captain and man of the match Faf du Plessis (100) and a career-best 95 from Rassie van der Dussen helped the Proteas to 325 for six after winning the toss and batting first. David Warner (122) smashed a wonderful century of his own with wicketkeeper Alex Carey hitting his career-best effort of 85 with Kagiso Rabada ending with 3-56 as Australia were bowled out for 315 off the penultimate ball of the innings.
South Africa’s victory left them seventh on the log but more importantly for the World Cup, left Australia second on the log and a trip to Edgbaston to face England in the semi finals while India, who beat Sri Lanka earlier in the day, will face New Zealand here at Old Trafford.
South Africa looked to be cruising midway through the Australian chase after Dwaine Pretorius (6-2-27-2) and Imran Tahir (9-0-59-1), playing in his last ODI, had helped to reduce Australia to 119 for four in pursuit. Australia’s position was not helped with Usman Khawaja (18) retiring hurt when on six and Quinton de Kock pulling off a brilliant run out of Marcus Stoinis (22).
Australia began their chase in nervy fashion as Warner was almost run out without having a score to his name but Rabada threw the ball to the wrong end. Steve Smith (7) was also given a lifeline when on nought as Rabada failed to catch the ball from De Kock with Smith way out of his crease.
But Smith’s let off did not cost much as Pretorius produced a peach of a delivery to trap the former captain in front but not after Tahir had made the early breakthrough when Aaron Finch (3) drove the leg-spinner straight to Aiden Markram in the covers.
Australia seemed to be on the mend when Warner and Marcus Stoinis (22) put on 62 for the fourth wicket but De Kock’s quick reflexes put an end to the threatening stand. Warner tickled the ball around the corner from Tahir with Rabada swooping in to flick the ball to De Kock, who then simply flicked the ball back-handed and onto the stumps with Stoinis short of his ground.
De Kock then pulled off one of the best catches of the tournament when a short ball from Rabada had Glenn Maxwell (12) pulling hard, only to top edge the ball through to the keeper, who leapt up in the air and claimed the catch one-handed with Maxwell in disbelief.
But Warner and Carey gave their side a fighting chance with a wonderful partnership of 108 off only 90 balls but a brilliant piece of captaincy led to Warner’s downfall. Du Plessis had halted Pretorius’ run up to make a change to the field, bringing Morris up into the circle at mid-on. Warner took the bait and tried to clear Morris with the tall allrounder diving full length to his left to take a great catch.
Warner faced just 117 balls while striking 15 boundaries and two sixes in his innings while Carey, who started slowly, struck 11 fours and a six from just 69 balls before holing out to Markram on the boundary off Morris (9-0-63-1). Mitchell Starc (16) looked to take the game down to the wire, clubbing a four and a six off Morris’ last over but then Rabada claimed the wickets of both Starc and Khawaja, who returned to the fray despite his hamstring injury, both bowled to ease South African nerves.
Andile Phehlukwayo (2.5-0-22-2), who had picked up the wicket of Pat Cummins (9) in his previous over, finished off the match when he had Nathon Lyon caught in the deep by Markram.
Earlier, Du Plessis and Van der Dussen had set South Africa up for their total with a masterful third-wicket stand of 151 off 153 balls after De Kock (52) and Markram (34) had given the Proteas a good start with an opening stand of 79. Markram was asked to open the innings with De Kock after Hashim Amla was injured in training.
Markram looked beautiful in his 37-ball innings, striking six boundaries and a six before being stumped by Carey off Lyon (10-0-53-2). Lyon, who was brought into the attack early with Starc (9-0-59-2) and Jason Behrendorff (8-0-55-1) had taken some early punishment.
Lyon then grabbed the wicket of De Kock, who had just gone to his fourth half-century of the tournament after facing 51 balls and striking seven boundaries, played across the line and was caught by Starc at short third man. But Du Plessis and Van der Dussen built beautifully.
Du Plessis, who faced just 94 balls with seven fours and two sixes, would have been disappointed at not being able to take his side deeper, being caught by Starc at short third man off Behrendorff. But Van der Dussen stayed till the end and was only denied a maiden ODI century by Maxwell, who claimed a catch on the boundary off the final ball of the innings – a ball that would have gone for six – but the fans around the ground showed their disapproval with Van der Dussen stranded on 95 from only 97 balls with four boundaries and four maximums.
JP Duminy, also playing in his last match, faced just 13 balls in his final innings, falling for 14 with one four, perishing in pursuit of the teams goal of a big total.