Thriller final set for today

2016-03-09 06:00

IT may not have been classic cricket, but at the end of play at Newlands today lovers of the game will have a satisfying result to the three-match T20 International series between South Africa and Australia.

At the moment the scoreboard reflects a dead-heat. The first match of the series claimed by the Proteas and the second, last Sunday, by an incredible finish, the equalising result going to Australia, the lads from Down Under winning by five wickets. What a finish it was though. South Africa having scored 204 for seven in the game’s opening stanza, and then Australia scraping home by just a single run, although for posterity the scorebooks will reflect it as a five- wicket win for the Aussies in the three-match series.

Australia had to thank David Warner (77) and Glen Maxwell (75), who were the visitors’ true saviours. These two eventually set a T20 International record of 161 for the highest partnership in this truncated form of the game. Warner afterwards could not hide his disappointment at his and Maxwell’s inability to see out the surge to that nerve-wracking one-run victory, but it was a finish the packed crowd will remember for years to come.

This is what T20 cricket was created for – a thrill a minute, a last-gasp run off the last ball of the day to win by that single, solitary run.

It so easily could have gone the other way as Kagiso Rabada began the match’s final over. Yes, it looked as though the youngster could provide a memorable finish and a 2-0 series result with just today’s final match to come – a match that would have no bearing, of course, on the result as it would be recorded in years to come. But it was not to be, even though the Proteas’ 20-year-old took a wicket – that of Warner – with the first ball of this last dramatic over.

It was like a tight-rope walk as middle-order men (Marsh two not out) and partner Faulkner seven not out) ground out the squeakiest of wins that this new form of cricket has yet produced. But the foundation of this defeat had already been laid much earlier in the afternoon, by T20 captain Faf du Plessis (79) and opening batsman Quinton de Kock (44), and later on it seemed for a while that David Miller might turn out to be the Proteas’ saviour. But just when it seemed, stroking the ball beautifully, he was getting the better of the attack he was well caught for 33.

Winning the toss, Australia chose to put the Proteas in to bat. It started well enough as captain Du Plessis and De Kock seemed to have the measure of the attack, after AB de Villiers had been dismissed on the dreaded “unlucky 13”. These two put together a partnership of 44 off just 28 balls. But De Kock’s dismissal, a silly attempt at hitting a full-toss out of the ground started the rot, and brought the Proteas back to reality.

Now it’s all up to both teams to grab the initiative, the action starting this afternoon at 5.30pm.

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