Saturday, April 18, 2009

Australia end series with a consolation win

Australia secured a consolation win in the final one-day international against South Africa, losing the series 3-2.

Invited to bat first, the Aussies started brilliantly through Michael Clarke (66) and Brad Haddin (62).

But 127-0 in 19 overs was converted into 303-7, a slightly disappointing outcome on such a true wicket.

South Africa struggled to string partnerships together, and were all out for 256 in 45.5 overs, despite some fine blows from Herschelle Gibbs (82).

"It's a good way to finish. We were pretty disappointed with the way we played over the last few games, so to bounce back today is a good thing for the group," said Australia skipper Ricky Ponting.

Given that the match in Johannesburg was finishing under floodlights - a scenario that tends to favour the team fielding second - it was perhaps surprising that Graeme Smith declined the option to bat first when winning the toss.

As Haddin and Clarke displayed their full range of strokes in ideal batting conditions he must have had cause to regret that option as Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini were thrashed all around the Wanderers.

After the two openers had finally holed out on the boundary, South Africa gradually got back into the contest though the disciplined spin bowling of Roelof van der Merwe and JP Duminy.

The 20 overs they shared cost just 92 runs and provided five wickets.

As a result, the out-of-form Michael Hussey (49 not out off 55 balls) - had only Australia's number nine, Nathan Hauritz, for company when the batting powerplay came.

And with Australia barely getting beyond 300 - considered a bare minimum total on this ground, it looked like advantage South Africa between the two innings.

Although Smith fell in the third over, a well-paced stand between Gibbs and Jacques Kallis (64) kept the hosts on top.

That said, they were slightly behind the asking rate when Gibbs was trapped lbw by Hauritz and remained that way when Kallis edged Bracken behind to make it 188-3 in the 35th over.

Suddenly, AB de Villiers watched at one end as everybody from number five onwards came and went in a flash with Mitchell Johnson (3-58) cutting a swathe through the lower order.

A stunning boundary catch from Ben Laughlin to see off Albie Morkel pretty much ended South Africa's hopes, although the home supporters got their final thrill when Ntini drove Johnson over extra cover for six.

Despite the defeat, Smith said it had been a "terrific summer" for South Africa, who are the game's top-ranked one-day side.