Faf du Plessis (left) and AB de Villiers have formed a prolific pair for South Africa © AFP
The mammoth 206-run partnership between AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis changed the course of the second One-Day International (ODI) of the Zimbabwe Triangular Series 2014 between South Africa and Australia. The partnership broke several records in the process, and became the third instance of two batsmen scoring centuries in a run-chase in excess of 300. Amit Banerjee has more on the topic.
The second match of the ongoing triangular series at Zimbabwe between South Africa and Australia at the Harare Sports Club was anticipated to be a riveting contest by many. The two sides have shared a healthy, if occasionally bitter, rivalry over the years. South Africa won the toss and chose to field, and it was not long before their attack was being thwarted by the determined Australian batsmen.
Aaron Finch brought up his fourth ODI century, while George Bailey and Phil Hughes chipped in with useful contributions of 66 and 51 respectively to help Australia pile on a massive total of 327 for the loss of seven wickets.
The Proteas in reply lost both their opening batsmen with just 51 runs on the board. A collapse and an eventual defeat was on the cards when the ever-dependable pair of AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis came to their rescue. The two began on a slow note, as they attempted to settle things at the crease. The tempo began to rise once the two reached their respective half-centuries, with the required run-rate eventually losing the race to the current one.
When the pair finally brought up their respective centuries, the Proteas needed less than 100 to win with eight wickets and a plenty of overs to spare. While du Plessis was finally removed for a score of 106 with the partnership ending at the 206-run mark, de Villiers and JP Duminy did not face much trouble at the crease there after as they sealed a seven-wicket victory for their side with 20 balls to spare.
The partnership between de Villiers and du Plessis is of importance from various aspects. Not only did the childhood friends put up yet another crucial partnership to pull their team out of trouble, they broke several records in the process. For a start, they surpassed the previous highest partnership for the third-wicket against Australia that was worth 149 runs between the late Hansie Cronje and Daryll Cullinan at Centurion in 1996. It was also the highest partnership for any wicket at the Harare Sports Club, breaking the previous record of 189 held by de Villiers and Albie Morkel.
This was also the third instance when two batsmen scored a century each in a successful run-chase of a target of over 300, with Australia interestingly being the opposition in each case. Following are the other matches where a similar record had been achieved:
India vs Australia, 2nd ODI at Jaipur, October 16, 2013: Five half-centuries were registered by the Australian batsmen in the second game of the five-match series as they reached a score of 359 for the loss of five wickets, a score similar to the one that the Aussies registered in the 2003 World Cup final.
However unlike that final, India managed to leave the Australians dumbstruck at the end of the game with a stunning nine-wicket win. While Shikhar Dhawan missed out on a well-deserved century by five runs, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli remained unbeaten on 141 and 100 respectively. The latter reached the three-figure mark in just 52 balls, the ninth-fastest century of all time. It was the start of a golden run for the two batsmen, as Sharma would go on to score a double-century in the final ODI of the series, while Kohli would end up scoring 344 runs from five innings at an average of 114.6.
India vs Australia, 6th ODI at Nagpur, October 30, 2013: The hosts were trailing the series 1-2 after the fourth and fifth matches got washed out. They had to win the remaining matches if they intended to win the series. The Australian batting shone once again as they piled on a daunting total of 350 for the loss of six wickets, thanks to the efforts of skipper Bailey and all-rounder Shane Watson, who scored 156 and 102 respectively. The Indian batsmen, however, decided to feast on the Australian attack once again as Dhawan joined the merriment by bringing up his fourth ODI century. The highlight of the night however was Kohli 66-ball 115 that left the Australians in pieces all over the Vidarbha Cricket Stadium. The Indian batsmen justified their tag as one of the most feared entities in world cricket in their own backyard.
With both de Villiers and du Plessis having plenty to offer to South African cricket, one can safely expect them to play life-saviours when things go south for the Proteas. The bond that they share is comparable to that between Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, or Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. With the two batsmen in peak form at the moment and their on-field chemistry at an all-time high, the South Africans will be assured of their roles in the upcoming World Cup.
Complete coverage of Zimbabwe Tri-Series 2014
(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, traveling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)