Batting first for the first time in the entire series, South Africa needed a big innings from a top player in order to set Australia an impossible target that would give the visitors the number one ranking. As it turned out, Hashim Amla, for a second consecutive match, led the way and helped South Africa post a target, which will require breaking some records again at the WACA in Perth.
With Jacques Kallis, Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn being rested as anticipated and Mark Boucher injured, the South African squad needed the likes of more experienced pros like Herschelle Gibbs and Neil McKenzie to raise their hand. But it was Hashim Amla, who is still adapting to the version of the game not many thought he would fit in to, who for a second successive time, scored an innings in excess of a half century to ensure South Africa would overcome the hiccups of losing both the experienced players.
Amla followed up on his eighty from the previous match with a ninety-seven that showed aggression as much as finesse and proved the cornerstone of the innings. South Africa looked steady and content scoring slowly up front but gradually pushed the bar at 155 in the 33rd over as Amla established a 118 runs partnership with AB de Villiers for the third wicket that swung the match in South Africa’s favour.
AB de Villiers became Hopes’ second victim on sixty in the thirty-sixth over while Amla added another to Hopes’ kitty as the South African opener fell three shy of what would have been an impressive maiden one day international century. The breakthrough meant that Albie Morkel walked in and the South Africans once again opted for the batting power play in the forty-second over.
This time though the combination of Albie Morkel and power play did not work to South Africa’s advantage as Morkel was clean bowled for fourteen by Mitchell Johnson. South Africa though had JP Duminy at the crease and through him, the hopes of utilizing the batting power play became imperative if South Africa had to get to a challenging total.
The impetus did come from the diminutive dynamite whose belligerent batting saw him score a much useful and imperative sixty off forty-two balls propelled South Africa to 288, a target that will once again revisit the history books should Australian win, as South Africa did in the third ODI.
A thriller awaits!