Recent Match Report – Australia vs South Africa 10th Match 2023/24

South Africa 311 for 7(De Kock 109, Markram 56) beat Australia 177 (Labuschagne 46, Rabada 3-33) by 134 runs

If South Africa really do want to move through this 2023 World Cup under the radar, they must do better than this. Because in wiping the floor with Australia in Lucknow, winning by a mammoth 134 runs for their second victory in as many games, they have put out one hell of a statement that is impossible to ignore.

As ever, Quinton de Kock made the most noise, crashing 109 up top as South Africa put up 311 for 7 having been asked to bat first. Australia’s decision at the toss, and the moves to reinforce their batting with Josh Inglis and Marcus Stoinis drafted in for Alex Carey and Cameron Green, came to nothing. A lack of impetus with the ball and errors in the field spilled into their chase – dead and buried as early as the 18th over at 70 for 6. Two straight defeats mean they can afford little room for error in the remaining seven games of the league stage.

It’s not news that this tournament will be de Kock’s last appearances in the ODI format, but it is worth remembering on nights like these. The 30-year-old is departing the scene at the peak of his powers, following a crisp 100 in the opening victory against Sri Lanka with this classy 91-ball jaunt to three figures. The 13 boundaries – five of them sixes – were crispy as you’d like against some of the most accomplished white ball bowlers on the circuit. Hundred No.19 was as much a reminder of the stock of a modern limited-overs great, as a word to the wise that South Africa are gunning for the their first world title.

As poor as they were, Australia have cause to lament two decisions against them. Steven Smith was given out LBW as an on-field decision was overturned on DRS despite the naked eye suggesting the ball was on its way past leg stump. Of far greater doubt was the decision to send Marcus Stoinis on his way for a catch down the leg side. Stoinis’ bottom hand was off the bat when in contact with the ball, with television umpire Richard Kettleborough suggesting it was in contact with the top hand, which did not seem to be the case from the front-on view. Kagiso Rabada was the bowler to profit from both, finishing with impressive figures of 3 for 33.

However, it will be far more productive for Australia to assess their own mistakes, missing an eye-watering seven chances in the first half of this counter. Temba Bavuma was on the right end of three of them. A top edge on 15 caught Adam Zampa lacking at deep third, before an edge off the leg spinner was missed with the Proteas skipper on 19. He was then lucky to continue his innings on 31 when a relay catch on the midwicket boundary could not be completed after substitute fielder Sean Abbott’s overarm toss back into play went over the head of Mitchell Starc.

Pat Cummins then shelled a caught-and-bowled from Aiden Markram, allowing him to move on from 1 to 56 from 44 deliveries, before two more errors in the penultimate over of the innings; Starc shelled David Miller (on 10) at deep square leg and Stoinis botched a simpler opportunity at cover off Marco Jansen (25). Factor in a spurned run out of de Kock when looking for a single on 22 at the end of the sixth over, and the collective malaise tots up to a galling 170 runs.

The crux of de Kock’s assault was the clarity of every shot in anger. The early swing and seam available to Starc and Josh Hazlewood, respectively, lent itself to a quiet start. The opening batter soon turned up the volume with a flick for six over square leg off the former, followed by a brace of fours, guided then driven square, off the latter, across the fifth and sixth over.

His steady progress allowed Bavuma to go at his own pace, pitching in with 17 from the 53 managed in the powerplay, then 35 in the overall opening stand of 108 before falling to Maxwell to a catch at deep midwicket. Though Maxwell was able to follow that up with a maiden against de Kock in the 22nd over, the left-hander made amends in the 23rd with a brace of sixes over backward square leg off Hazlewood.

A half-century stand for the second wicket ended with Rassie van der Dussen falling to Zampa, failing to clear straight where, this time, Abbott had enough room between him and the sponge to complete the dismissal himself. Eight deliveries later, de Kock heaved over the leg side for his fifth six to bring up his third ODI hundred against Australia.

With the score 171 for 2 and 20 overs remaining, the threat of an insurmountable total was taking its toll on Cummins, evident when he burned a review against de Kock – on 104 – for a speculative outside edge off his own bowling. But the wicket they craved would come, de Kock trying to force the issue with a reverse sweep that made its way onto his own stumps.

That was the second batter to fall to Maxwell, who would eventually close out his 10 overs without conceding a boundary as they continued to flow elsewhere. Markram and Heinrich Klassen combined to heap more misery on Hazlewood in the 38th, with three boundaries in an over costing 14. The pair brought up another fifty stand – this one off 41 deliveries. Markram would take as many himself to bring up one of his own in the midst of Zampa’s final two overs getting carted for 25.

At that point – 263 for 3 with seven overs to go – Australia began to pull things back with pace-off deliveries. Cummins nabbed Markram with a cutter guided to backward point, then Klaasen top-edged Hazlewood’s slower bumper through to Inglis – both in the space of seven deliveries.

Starc was struck for a six by Jansen, who then skewed over third up in the ring for four. The left-armer then dropped Miller on 10, having seemingly caught a tough chance at backward square leg only for the ball to pop out as he bumped to the ground. Two balls later, Stoinis shelled an easier high chance at cover for Jansen’s life.

Starc would close things out emphatically – Warner catching Jansen, Miller yorked – in a final over which would reap just one run via a leg bye. Australia looked back in contention with the damage from the final seven overs limited to just 48 runs.

Unfortunately, South Africa’s quicks had been taking notes. And in among the movement with the two shiny new Kookaburras were variations that accounted for Australia’s openers Mitchell Marsh and David Warner in seven deliveries up to the end of the seventh over. Marsh skied to Bavuma at mid off after Jansen got a delivery to stop in the pitch, before Warner slapped a similar ball straight to cover in the second of Lungi Ngidi’s two maidens in the first four overs of his 50th ODI.

Then came Smith’s contentious LBW appeal, having struck two crisp fours off Rabada, who left nothing up for debate when squaring up Inglis to take out the right-hander’s off stump. When Maxwell’s leading edge gave Keshav Maharaj a simple return catch, Australia’s goose was well and truly cooked at 65 for 5 with 247 still required from 33.5 overs.

A defiant stand of 69 – the second highest of the match – was put together by Marnus Labuschagne and Starc after Stoinis fell. The aim was solely NRR preservation, clawing back what pride they could before extra bounce from Jansen and a chip to cover off Maharaj saw another two dismissals.

Cummins and Zampa heaved for 32 more between them, before Tabraiz Shamsi – playing instead of Gerald Coetzee – took two in three, Cummins and Hazlewood skying into the off side, to have something to show for his day.

The moment of victory arrived with 9.1 overs to go. But really, the match was done a long time before.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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