Australia are now the world’s number one T20I side after winning their fourth consecutive series by hammering South Africa in Cape Town overnight.
Thanks to some explosive hitting and another quality bowling display the Aussies secured a 2-1 series win over the Proteas to take the number one ranking from Pakistan.
The Aussies recently thrashed Pakistan 3-0 amid a hot streak that has seen them win nine of their last ten matches in the shortest format.
That form surge has come on the back of a rampant top order and the consistent excellence of their five-man bowling attack. It was the same story again overnight as they piled up 5-193 and then skittled SA for 96.
Australia had the Proteas rattled within the first 30 minutes of the match. Gun openers David Warner (57 from 37 balls) and Aaron Finch (55 from 37 balls) went ballistic in the power play, making 75 off the first six overs.
As the field was spread that pair reined themselves in, particularly against left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi (1-25 from four overs), who was excellent once again. Then Warner and Finch both departed in a matter of minutes.
As was the case for both sides in all three matches, batting got harder in the second half of the innings as bowlers took the pace off with a softer ball. Promoted to number three, Matt Wade (ten from nine balls) again looked scratchy, struggling to read the change-ups of the Proteas’ quicks.
Aside from one huge six, flick-pulling the ball over deep backward square, Mitch Marsh (19 from 16 balls) also lacked fluency after being handed a great platform by Warner and Finch.
Batting out of position at five, regular first drop Steve Smith gave further evidence of his blossoming versatility in T20s. With their momentum having stalled, Australia needed a strong finish. Smith proceeded to thump 20 from the last over, including two sixes, one of which was the shot of the match. That stroke was an exquisite inside-out lofted drive over cover point.
That surge pushed Australia to a total of 193, which looked to be about 15-20 runs above par on a pitch that was holding up.
Once more, the golden wicket for Australia would be that of SA captain Quinton de Kock. The star wicketkeeper-batsman was in great form leading into this series but twice has been dismissed in the first over by Aussie spearhead Mitchell Starc. Just like in the series opener, last night Starc uprooted de Kock’s middle stump.
That dismissal placed a heavy burden on the blade of former skipper Faf du Plessis. The Proteas veteran promptly donated his wicket, slashing at a Starc ball that would have been a wide and carving it to third man.
The required run rate began to balloon for SA and then got out of control as they were yet again blanketed by Australia’s spin twins. Ashton Agar (3-16 from four overs) and Adam Zampa (2-10 from three overs) offered nothing to a Proteas batting unit that grew increasingly desperate.
While Australia’s pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Kane Richardson were excellent in this series, it was Agar and Zampa who dismantled the Proteas.
Together that pair took 13 wickets at nine, with a remarkably frugal economy rate of 5.76 runs per over. This was not a purple patch but rather the continuation of a blooming partnership between this spin duo, who have been excellent for Australia over the past six months.
Less than eight months out from the T20 World Cup, Australia barely could be in better shape.