Cape Town – David Miller will never forget his first century for South Africa in a chase … particularly not when it has won a one-day international series against old adversaries Australia.
The power-smacking left-hander had critical aid at the business end of a pulsating third contest at Kingsmead on Wednesday from a marvellously free-spirited and at least outwardly nerveless rookie in Andile Phehlukwayo, 20, which is further manna for the Proteas to dine on as they bask in the glory of their unassailable 3-0 lead with just St George’s Park and Newlands to play.
But “Miller Time” came into play to such a brutal, decisive extent that the now Bloemfontein-based player, relishing his return to an old stamping ground, was a simple pick for man-of-the-match with his unbeaten 118 at a strike rate of a fraction under 150.
By chasing down 371, the host nation achieved their second steepest chase in this format yet (only the iconic 438 game stands above it) and all of their best three have now come against the Aussies.
It also emphatically rewrote the record books at Kingsmead, where a score all of 100 runs shy of it was the previous premier effort in a winning cause batting second.
That very statistic, indicating the degree of difficulty under such circumstances at the venue, tells you so much about the quality of Miller’s knock, and he was immediately heaped with this to-the-point tribute by clearly ecstatic captain Faf du Plessis in the post-match TV interview: “David Miller take a bow … that was one of the best innings you’ll ever see.”
The 27-year-old from Pietermaritzburg boasts two prior centuries in ODIs, although both came under the less taxing environment of setting rather than pursuing a target, so this one seems sure to go down as his most satisfying by a country mile.
The first two came during a period in early January 2015 when it appeared Miller was finally “arriving” as a match-winning, finishing factor with his smoking blade.
First he made 130 not out against West Indies in Port Elizabeth, having taken guard at No 5 and the Proteas a shaky 32 for three – his innings there accounted for almost exactly half of the eventual total of 262 for eight; the Windies later edged the contest by one wicket.
Miller then got his World Cup off to a roaring start as he importantly settled some team butterflies against minnow neighbours Zimbabwe at Hamilton: SA were a less than convincing 83 for four when he started out but he and JP Duminy completely altered the situation as both men blitzed their way to three-figure scores.
Since that day, however, the player has largely lapsed back into spluttering ways at his difficult middle-order trade: until Wednesday’s heroics he had not managed to post even a half-century in 19 knocks and his place has been well less than secure again.
But he has a right now to expect a bit more breathing space in his quest to fire more regularly, including the slightly more relaxed settings for him and his team-mates in the two immediate dead-rubber clashes against the Australians over the next few days.
Apart from displaying a notably wide range of attacking strokes – proving he doesn’t just prosper when he can free his arms – Miller ticked a box indelibly for “ticker” and durability at Kingsmead.
He was impeded from relatively early on in his gradually more dazzling pyrotechnics display by a groin or upper leg injury which, apart from the discomfort factor, meant he had to judge his running between the wickets unusually carefully.
To add to his physical woe, he later took a stinging blow to his left hip as he attempted a swivelling shot off Mitchell Marsh, but apart from the odd mini-break for bits of physio, never wavered in his determination -- or composure -- to get the job done for his country.
The fact that former Dolphins ally Phehlukwayo played his own natural, bright and breezy game in an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 107 – when they came together the odds had seemed hugely loaded the Aussie way – meant the visitors’ inexperienced, vulnerable bowlers were basically copping it from both ends and unable to cope with the blitzkrieg.
This was certainly one for pretty prime placement in the South African limited-overs annals …
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