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De Villiers, Du Plessis centuries script South African win

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South Africa  wrote another chapter in their history of famous 50 overs contests against Australia when they beat the world No. 1 ranked side by seven wickets with 20 balls to spare in the second ODI of the triangular series at Harare today.

Australia won the first match against Zimbabwe, gaining a bonus point in the process, with the result that they remain top of the log for the time being. The Proteas will have the chance to go top when they play Zimbabwe on Friday.

The Proteas owed their victory in the main to a third-wicket partnership of 206 between AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis, which was both a ground record as well as a South African record against Australia. The previous respective records were the 186 scored by De Villiers and Albie Morkel against Zimbabwe in 2007 and the 149 by Hansie Cronje and Daryll Cullinan against Australia in 1997.

De Villiers (136 not out, 106 balls, 11 fours and 2 sixes) made his maiden ODI century against Australia and the 18th of his career. It is also the second highest score for the Proteas against Australia, surpassed only by Herschelle Gibbs’ unforgettable 175 in the famous 438 match.

Du Plessis achieved an important landmark with his maiden ODI century (106 off 98 balls, 11 fours and a six). His previous best had been 72 against Sri Lanka. Remarkably he has made both his maiden ODI and Test centuries against Australia which speaks volumes for his temperament.

Their partnership was superbly paced in keeping the Proteas in touch with the required run rate which was never allowed to get much above seven to the over. The first 100 runs came off 110 balls, the second off 84 and the third off 76 as the Proteas gradually upped the run rate. It was certainly one of the most mature and composed runs chases they have ever completed successfully against Australia.

De Villiers, who had to battle what is hopefully only cramp for the second half of his innings, was named Man of the Match. He has played only three ODI’s in Harare but already has two centuries on that ground.

The importance of Du Plessis’ innings cannot be underestimated. Now that both he and Quinton de Kock are starting to put the big numbers on the board, the Proteas have a rock solid top four and has put to bed the previous over-dependence on De Villiers and Hashim Amla.

The Proteas now have a well-established top six for next year’s World Cup and, barring the unexpected, they should all still be around for the following World Cup in 2019.

Winning the toss was probably worth about 30 runs to the Proteas but they won so comfortably in the end that it did not make that much of a difference.

The Proteas bowling performance was not up to the normal standard with too much variation in line and length but it can only get better as the series progresses as Dale Steyn, in particular, always needs game time to resume normal service after a rest away from the game.

Imran Tahir was by far the best bowler, pulling the game back for the Proteas after Phillip Hughes and Aaron Finch had started off like an express train, by taking two wickets.

The Proteas quick men conceded 62 runs without success in the mandatory power play with Steyn, Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell conceding almost half those runs in their respective first overs. Steyn went for 10, Morkel for 11 and Parnell for 9.

Finch provided the backbone of the Australian innings with his fourth ODI century (102 off 116 balls, 9 fours and a six). It was quite a sedate knock by his normal standards but he shared the two important partnerships of the innings of 92 with Hughes and 114 with George Bailey and demonstrated his ability to adapt to varying match circumstances.

Crucially, Bailey and Finch were dismissed within 13 runs of one another which helped the Proteas to restrict Australia to 93 in the final 10 overs.