World T20: Australia clinch hard-fought win over South Africa
SUMMARY: Australia 121-5 (Smith 35, Stoinis 24*, Nortje 2-21) beat South Africa 117-9 (Markram 40, Hazlewood 2-19, Zampa 2-21) by five wickets
Australia snuck over the line but made hard work of chasing 119 to beat South Africa in the opening Super 12 game of the T20 World Cup.
Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade shared an unbroken 40 as Australia won by five wickets with two balls to spare. Steve Smith made 35 from 34 balls, after Australia had slipped to 38-3.
South Africa made 118-9 with Aiden Markram top-scoring with 40 and Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa and Mitchell Starc taking two wickets apiece.
Aussie bowlers impress, but batters make hard work of it
The last T20 World Cup was in 2016, with this seventh edition delayed a year and moved from India to the United Arab Emirates because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The expectation of high scores and thrilling cricket failed to materialise in this opening game between two of the bigger nations, which was played in front of a sparse crowd, with a handful of spectators supporting each side alongside locals.
Australia, whose best finish in a T20 World Cup was runners-up in 2010, had gone into the game having lost 15 of their past 21 official Twenty20 games and all five of their previous series in the format, but they rarely looked properly threatened or likely to lose.
They were excellent with the ball, bowling a consistently good line and length to restrict South Africa, albeit they were assisted by some poor shot selection and chaotic running.
Hazlewood’s accuracy brought him the wickets of Rassie van der Dussen caught behind, and Quinton de Kock bowled – the ball spinning back off his thigh pad in the powerplay – after Glenn Maxwell skidded one through the defences of Temba Bavuma.
Pat Cummins was stringent in conceding just 19, while leg-spinner Adam Zampa was also economical in going for just 21 and broke South Africa open with the wickets of David Miller and Dwaine Pretorius in the same over.
Left-armer Starc struggled at times, conceding 32, but Australia seem to have all areas covered with the ball, although their death-over ability was untested because of the earlier wickets and will face sterner tests against better opposition in this tournament.
Australia lost Aaron Finch, caught at deep third, and David Warner, caught at backward point, in the powerplay, before Mitch Marsh fell just after.
Smith and Glenn Maxwell, fresh from scoring 513 runs in the Indian Premier League, put on 42 for the fourth wicket but both fell in the space of three balls to leave Justin Langer’s side 81-5.
Stoinis and Wade took a few balls to get themselves in, which left Australia needing 36 from four overs, but five boundaries saw Australia sneak over the line and get their campaign off to a winning start. (BBC Sport)