Quinton de Kock smashed 107 to help setup a good platform for South Africa © Getty Images
Quinton de Kock smashed 107 to help setup a good platform for South Africa © Getty Images

Australia pulled off a thrilling two-wicket win against South Africa in the fifth and final One-Day International (ODI) at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday. With this victory, Australia won the series convincingly by a 4-1 margin, something which many would not have expected before the tour commenced. They also displaced India from the top spot in the ODI rankings ahead of the four-match Test series and the ICC World Cup 2015. Amit Banerjee takes a look at some of the key moments from the match.

Quinton de Kock guides South Africa to a strong start: The South African wicket-keeper was outstanding as a batsman, breaking an otherwise dry spell. Quinton de Kock formed a 54-run opening partnership with Hashim Amla. After Amla’s dismissal, de Kock added 107 runs for the next wicket with Rilee Rossouw, who scored 51. At one stage, the South Africans looked set to post a total beyond 300, a competitive target for this venue. Not only was the century de Kock’s sixth overall and his first against Australia, it was also the first time that a South African batsman registered a century at this venue.

Pat Cummins puts the brakes on the South African march: It was Pat Cummins who played a pivotal role in preventing the Proteas from taking the match away from them, picking the crucial wickets of de Kock, Rossouw as well as Faf du Plessis. Steven Smith too chipped in at this stage by removing David Miller for five. South Africa fell from 161 for one to 206 for five, with Farhaan Behardien being one of the last recognised batsmen from his team at the crease. Australia seemed to have brought themselves back into the game, and looked to restrict the visitors to a sub-250 total.

The Behardien blitzkrieg: The 31 year-old all-rounder came in to bat when his side was crumbling from a sudden loss of wickets. Behardien initially began on a cautious note, but switched to the hard-hitting mode soon after. He smashed seven fours and two huge sixes during his 41 ball-knock of 63, which helped complete what de Kock had begun. He helped the visitors add 46 runs from the last five overs that took the South Africans to a respectable total of 280 at the end of fifty overs, although he was dismissed on the third-last delivery of the South African innings.

Farhaan Behardien goes over cover to pick a six. His innings helped South Africa put up a good score © Getty Images
Farhaan Behardien goes over cover to pick a six. His innings helped South Africa put up a good score © Getty Images

Aaron Finch and Shane Watson feast on the hapless Proteas attack: After David Warner’s dismissal early in the Australian innings, Aaron Finch and Shane Watson began to attack the South African bowlers with ease. It was mostly a Finch show during the second-wicket stand worth 100 runs, with the Victorian batsman scoring 76 from 67 deliveries. Finch was unlucky to be dismissed by a brilliant catch by Rossouw right after the pair brought up the partnership milestone. Watson decided to keep the party going, and struck seven fours and two sixes during his 93-ball innings of 82. He added 81 for the third-wicket with Steven Smith, before falling prey to Morne Morkel.

South Africa rise from the dead: It was a one-sided chase by Australia for a majority of the innings. Though the likes Watson and Glenn Maxwell departed, it was expected of Australia to coast to a victory. At 264 for five, with Smith and George Bailey at the crease, the average Australian fan would have expected the match to end with a couple of big hits. What happened instead, was something that few would have anticipated.

Smith was the first to depart, off the bowling of Robin Peterson, for a score of 67 from 74. Aus were 264 for five. Bailey was next, as he fell to a brilliant catch by Behardien off the bowling of Morkel. It was now 264 for six. It was however the magical 46th over by Peterson that took the cake, as it ended Matthew Wade and Cummins’s innings, finishing as a double-wicket maiden for the all-rounder. It brought the visitors a sudden ray of hope of ending the series on a high, which had vanished right at the start of the Australian innings.

James Faulkner wins the battle of nerves: Australia needed eight to win off the last 12 balls, with all results possible. Kyle Abbott came in to bowl the 47th over, and was decent for the first four deliveries, conceding a solitary run. It was the fifth delivery in which he conceded a front-foot no-ball, an unpardonable sin at such a stage. A single was taken off the free hit, with four runs needed off the last over.

South Africa planned to make Faulkner to crumble under the pressure of the last over, especially with Peterson bowling and Amla setting such a tight field up. But Faulkner was no stranger to such a situation, having led his side to many famous victories in the past [Australia’s famous victory at Mohali last year, with Faulkner scoring 30 runs off an Ishant Sharma over]. The SCG went wild with celebrations when Faulkner swept the first delivery of the over pitched outside off for a boundary through square leg.

(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, travelling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)