ROBIN PETERSON almost pulled off an unlikely victory for the Castle Lager Proteas as the Australians scrambled to a two-wicket victory with five balls to spare in the fifth and final ODI at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday.
The result gave the home side a 4-1 series victory and a return to the top spot on the ICC ODI rankings.
Australia, having been set a revised target of 275 in 48 overs on the Duckworth-Lewis method, appeared to be coasting to victory when they reached 260/4 at the end of the 43rd over. But Peterson and Kyle Abbott then turned the game on its head when four wickets fell for three runs in the next three overs to leave Australia needing eight runs for victory in the last two overs with only two wickets in the bag.
Fortunately for them one of those was James Faulkner who hit the first ball of the last over to the boundary to clinch the victory. Peterson finished with figures of 4/32.
In spite of this defeat there were important positive for the Proteas, not the least of these being Quinton de Kock’s sixth ODI century (107 off 123 balls, 14 fours) and more importantly his first against Australia, Rilee Rossouw’s maiden half-century in this format and Farhaan Behardien’s career best 63 (41 balls, 7 fours and 2 sixes).
De Kock and Rossouw set up South Africa’s total of 280/6 with their second wicket partnership of 107 after De Kock and Hashim Amla had previously put on 54 for the first wicket.
The innings then lost its momentum as has happened all too frequently through the series with a poor batting power play that produced only 22 runs for the loss of two wickets. The timing of the power play at the end of the 30th over was perfect but unfortunately the execution was not.
Where the Proteas did show improvement was in scoring 80 runs in the last 10 overs for the loss of only two wickets and 46 in the last five, thanks largely to Behardien. His five overs cost only 20 runs and he has done enough to show that he and JP Duminy, when the latter returns to fitness, are quite capable of handling the fifth bowling role between them.
Australia’s victory was set up by two big partnerships up front – 100 for the second wicket between Aaron Finch (76 off 67 balls, 11 fours) and Shane Watson (82 off 93 balls, 7 fours and 2 sixes) and 81 for the third wicket between Watson and Steve Smith (67 off 74 balls, 6 fours and a six) before the final collapse nearly cost them dearly.
The Proteas again struggled to take wickets in the middle overs which is an area that will have to be addressed before the World Cup. The issue of no balls remains an issue with Smith being a particularly beneficiary when he chopped Abbott on to his stumps early in his innings only to be recalled when the on-field umpire referred for a possible no ball.
The Proteas bowled four no balls in all – three by Abbott and one by Ryan McLaren – and one of these from Abbott came in the penultimate over when the Proteas still had a winning chance.
AB de Villiers missed the game through injury while Dale Steyn was rested, allowing for the return of Morne Morkel to the starting XI.