Australia has cruised towards an unassailable 2-0 lead in their T20 series against South Africa after thumping the Proteas by eight wickets in Durban on Friday evening.
Opener Matthew Short (66 from 30 balls) and captain Mitchell Marsh (79* from 39 balls) combined for a century stand as Australia chased the under-par 165-run target with 31 balls to spare.
Marsh, who also top-scored for Australia during Wednesday’s series opener, cleared the boundary rope six times in another brutal batting performance. The West Australian has now scored 171 runs in the series without being dismissed.
“It’s quite hard to keep your nerve when you’ve got two big boys trying to smoke you out of the ground the whole time,” Proteas captain Aiden Markram confessed in the post-match presentation.
“We certainly got challenged tonight, but there are lessons we can take forward.”
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Earlier, Australian quicks Sean Abbott and Nathan Ellis each snared three wickets, helping restrict South Africa to 8-164 from their 20 overs.
Australia made two changes to its starting XI, with Adam Zampa and Jason Behrendorff replacing Tanveer Sangha and Spencer Johnson.
Proteas opener Temba Bavuma got off to a blistering start after Marsh won the toss and elected to field first, cracking seven boundaries in the opening three overs, including a hook shot against Jason Behrendorff that flew over fine leg for six.
Abbott only needed one delivery to end Bavuma’s onslaught, with the right-hander departing for 35 (17) after Australian wicketkeeper Josh Inglis settled underneath a leading edge.
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Rassie van der Dussen pumped a six over deep mid-wicket before misjudging a well-disguised knuckle ball from Behrendorff, trapped on the pads and wasting a review before trudging off for 6.
Ellis was introduced to the attack in the sixth over and ended the Powerplay with a double-wicket maiden. After removing South African opener Reeza Hendricks LBW for 3 (9), the Tasmanian seamer knocked over the dangerous Dewald Brevis the following delivery, edging behind for a golden duck. The hat-trick delivery narrowly evaded Tristan Stubbs’ outside edge.
South Africa had lost 4-10 in a chaotic 16-ball passage of play, leaving the hosts in a spot of bother at 4-46 after six overs. However, Stubbs and Markram steadied the ship with a 51-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
Stubbs nailed a lap shot against West Australian all-rounder Aaron Hardie that flew over the wicketkeeper’s head for six before botching a reverse scoop against Behrendorff, bowled by a slower ball for 27 (20).
Bjorn Fortuin became Abbott’s second victim in the 14th over after top-edging a cut stoke towards Hardie at point, exposing South Africa’s tail. The dismissal forced Markram to counter-attack, smacking a handful of elegant boundaries to ensure the Proteas registered a defendable total.
Ellis snared his third dismissal with a back-of-the-hand slower ball that Gerald Coetzee spooned towards Marsh at cover, gone for 11 (11).
Markham fell agonisingly short of a half-century, slapping a low full toss from Abbott towards the point boundary rider for 49 (38) in the penultimate over. Lungi Ngidi provided some valuable late runs, while Abbott finished with career-best figures of 3-22, later named player of the match.
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Courtzee missed a run-out chance in the second over of Australia’s run chase, handing Short an early reprieve on 6. Australian opener Travis Head wasn’t as lucky, charging at Proteas seamer Lizaad Williams and chipping a regulation catch towards mid-on for 18 (17).
Short blasted 20 runs from the final over of the Powerplay, delivered by Lungi Ngidi, before combining with Marsh for a 100-run partnership for the second wicket. Bavuma put down a tough chance at deep mid-wicket in the tenth over, gifting the Australian skipper an extra life on 32.
The Victorian reached his maiden international fifty in just 25 deliveries, scoring five consecutive boundaries during a wayward over from Coetzee. He brought up a century partnership with Marsh in the 12th over, but returned to the sheds the next delivery, with Proteas spinner Tabraiz Shamsi unearthing the much-needed breakthrough.
Marsh continued on his merry way, reaching his half-century in 28 deliveries before slapping back-to-back sixes against Shamsi over square leg. The Australians cruised towards the target in the 15th over, with Inglis finishing unbeaten on 2.
“In my time playing in South Africa, a series win is very hard to come by,” Marsh said at the post-match presentation.
“I’m rapt for our young guys who have come in and played the way they have, and I thought tonight the game was set up by our bowlers, for sure.”
The third T20 between South Africa and Australia gets underway at the same venue on Sunday, with the first ball scheduled for 10pm AEST.