Australia have belied the doomsayers just two days after falling victim to a ferocious Zimbabwe outfit by managing a bonus-point win over the distinctly less threatening Proteas in Harare.
Here again are the everything ratings, summing up all that may or may not have mattered overnight.
Power Play Batting: A-
It seemed like just yesterday that Australia could blame an ODI loss to a bottom-ranked team on a drunken Andrew Symonds. Alas, it wasn’t yesterday. And nor was it the day before. This left the team with more or less no choice but to share responsibility for the Zimbabwe defeat and look to redeem themselves against South Africa.
They started well, with some sensible batting from the dream team of Phil Hughes and Steve Smith, in which Australia explored the fascinating tactic of scoring a reasonable number of runs while not losing most of their wickets. This avant-garde approach to the innings saw only one real highlight for fans of cricketing comedy – namely, a split screen comparison of Steve Smith’s pre-delivery twitching antics.
Smith’s eventual dismissal, however, saw Glenn Maxwell promoted and the Power Play taken, a combination surely designed for maximum lack of sensibleness. And despite an inexplicable failure to reverse slog paddle-sweep his first ball for six, Maxwell still delivered. He top edged his sixth ball, causing a near-collision between Dale Steyn and Quinton de Kock before the latter took the catch.
Only the mad genius of Glenn Maxwell could make a catch to the keeper so thrilling.
A few overs later, Phil Hughes – who had motored effortlessly to 85 – abruptly realised that only one wicket had fallen in the Power Play and skilfully rectified the oversight, hitting straight to long on. Quality stuff.
George Bailey: C
Having banished the strange, limping hobo who had wandered into the dressing room and briefly usurped his leadership during the previous game, George Bailey was once again skipper.
After a somewhat scratchy start to his innings, Bailey suddenly seemed to remember he is, in fact, an outstanding limited overs batsman and hammered a massive six down the ground.
Unfortunately, a follow-up attempt to hit something even larger (possibly a 12, maybe even a 14), saw his bat miss the ball by a considerable distance. Almost as considerable as the distance between his back foot and the crease.
Surprisingly, the South African wicket-keeper then chose to complete the stumping, rather than merely give Bailey a warning that he was out of his ground. While technically within the laws, is this kind of thing within the spirit of the game? Do we really want children emulating this kind of reverse-Mankading? Seems a shame.
Mitch Marsh: B-
Dale Steyn’s stubborn determination to not bowl the kind of off-spin that had troubled the Australians against Zimbabwe eventually turned against him, when Mitchell Marsh decided to muscle the first three balls of the 47th over for three consecutive sixes. (‘Muscle’ now firmly entrenched as a verb these days, it seems.)
Alas, Marsh couldn’t emulate Sir Garfield Sobers’ famous six sixes in an over. (Or those of less famous, currently knighthoodless six fiends Yuvraj Singh or Herschelle Gibbs). So we had to settle for a mere half-Sobers. Or, depending on your perspective, a half-non-Sobers.
Even more disappointingly, despite the myriad of sixes struck by Marsh, he failed to smash a single commentary box window. But his inaccurate big hitting did mean the Australians had set AB de Villiers 283 to win.
Faf du Plessis: A-
AB de Villiers, however, was dismissed for six, something that is apparently also within the laws, although surely outside the spirit, of the game.
Instead, it was left to Faf du Plessis to score the runs that had been earmarked for his captain. He crunched his way to 126 off 109 balls before seemingly taking pity on the Australian bowlers and treading on his stumps. Faf’s innings wasn’t enough to win the game, but probably should have earned his team a draw.
Instead, it couldn’t even save a bonus point, meaning that Australia therefore moved to the top of the table in this tri-series. Ha! Take that, Zimbabwe!