Faf du Plessis was on song yet again with an innings of 96 in the final © AFP
Faf du Plessis was on song yet again with an innings of 96 in the final © AFP

After a thrilling tournament, South Africa emerged the deserving champions, beating Australia in the final of the Zimbabwe Triangular Series 2014 by six wickets. Shiamak Unwalla looks at some of the highlights the match that saw South Africa end their 12-year multi-nation tournament victory drought.

Australia start positively: When Phil Hughes and Aaron Finch started smacking the bowling around in the first few overs, one felt that a score of 300 was on the table. Hughes struck two attractive boundaries before driving one straight to AB de Villiers, but even after his dismissal Finch and Steve Smith kept the tempo going.

South Africa strike at regular intervals: Steve Smith played a loose shot — getting a top-edge off a pull shot — to lose his wicket at an important time. George Bailey worked hard and got himself in before being outfoxed by Imran Tahir, bowled by a googly. At 82 for three, Australia were under a lot of pressure before Finch and Mitchell Marsh steadied the ship. Until…

Dale Steyn delivers reverse-swinging master class: Few fast bowlers in world cricket can make a dead pitch come alive and spew hellfire and brimstone. Fewer still can do it with the regularity of Dale Steyn. The ‘Phalaborwa Firebolt,’ bowling the 29th over, came in and got one to seam in vigorously from outside off stump to send Finch’s middle stump for a walk. Glenn Maxwell came in and was subject to an unplayable ball first up: it was almost a replay of the last delivery, except that it came in even later, beating the bat comprehensively and striking Maxwell plump in front of the stumps. In two balls, Steyn had derailed Australia. Brad Haddin was out in similar fashion, again falling prey to Steyn’s reverse swing.

James Faulkner and Mitchell Starc’s rearguard heroics: From 82 for three, Australia had fallen to 144 for eight, with 12 overs remaining in the innings. It took a partnership of 71 runs between Mitchell Starc and James Faulkner to stabilise things, as both men ensured that Australia batted the full 50 overs. Faulkner was dismissed at the far end of the innings, making a 37-ball 40, while Starc’s unconquered 29 came off 46 balls.

The Hashim Amla-Faf du Plessis show: Quinton de Kock didn’t have to deal with a fright from Dale Steyn this time around, but was unable to make the most of his good form, falling once again to Maxwell early on. However, that just brought in the batsman of the tournament Faf du Plessis,  and he added 98 runs with Hashim Amla, who scored 51 off 75 balls. While du Plessis narrowly missed out on becoming the first batsman to ever score four tons in the same tournament when he was dismissed for 96 with just one run needed for a Protean victory.

AB de Villiers’ blitz: When AB de Villiers scores a half-century, it is usually at a strike-rate of way more than 100. So when he was batting on 37 off 36 balls, it seemed like he was taking it a bit easy. He soon remedied that, however, as his next five balls yielded 20 runs. He ended unbeaten on 57 off 41 deliveries, scoring the winning runs for South Africa.

Catch all the coverage of the Zimbabwe Tri-Series 2014 here

(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time)