Cape Town - A poor lower order collapse proved damaging for the Proteas as they slipped to a 36-run loss to Australia in their latest Tri-Nation One-Day International (ODI) clash at Warner Park in St Kitts on Saturday.
Having restricted the Australians to an average 288/6 on an excellent batting track, the South Africans had looked well on course for victory at 210/3 in the 38th over.
That was thanks to half centuries by Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla, but they then suffered a mortifying collapse that saw the remaining seven wickets fall for 42 runs on their way to a second loss in three matches of the competition thus far.
Australia, who South Africa had beaten by 47 runs on Tuesday, relied heavily on David Warner’s sixth ODI century after winning the toss and batting first on what looked a paradise for batting. The left-hander struck 109 (120 balls, 11 fours, 2 sixes) and shared in a 136-run second wicket stand with Usman Khawaja, who made 59 (71 balls. 4 fours, 1 six).
Despite the big stand and an ensuing unbeaten 52 (49 balls, 5 fours, 1 six) by the Australian captain Steven Smith, the target of 289 still looked very gettable – the average first-innings total at Basseterre is 282.
South Africa’s best bowler on the day was Imran Tahir after he picked up 2/45 in 9 overs. Wayne Parnell (1/34) and Kyle Abbott (1/50) also impressed.
Quinton de Kock (19) fell early in the chase, but Amla struck 60 (64 balls, 6 fours, 1 six) and Du Plessis made 63 (76 balls, 5 fours) to put their side on course for a second successive win against their old rivals. The pair put on 105 together for the second wicket with Du Plessis going past 3000 ODI runs on what was his return to action following a six-week injury lay-off.
Even after both men fell, the Proteas still looked destined for victory with skipper AB de Villiers and JP Duminy to follow. But they then lost their last seven wickets cheaply – De Villiers (39) and Duminy (41) amongst those to fall – with SA slipping to 252 all out in 47.4 overs.
There were three wickets each for Mitchell Starc (3/43), Josh Hazlewood (3/52) and Adam Zampa (3/52).
Defeat saw South Africa drop to second on the table. Their next match in the series is against hosts West Indies at the same venue on Wednesday.