South Africa surge to victory

Graeme Smith led his team to a comfortable victory against Australia in the 1st ODI at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

Smith’s 6th ODI ton powered his team to victory in the rain-curtailed match. The Australian innings was reduced to 47 overs after rain interrupted play at the midway through the innings. Rain further delayed play in the South African innings resulting in a target of 204 runs in 41 overs for the Proteas – no mean feat on a sluggish pitch offering some assistance to the bowlers. However, Smith made it look easy as he and his team sauntered to victory to go one-up in the best of five series. Both teams were hit by injuries before the match. Pollock was suffering a knee injury although he still played, while Symonds and Ponting were unfit for Australia. Stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist started off positively, winning the toss but not much went right thereafter. After surprisingly electing to bat first, the Aussies had a horror start.

That the Australians had a significant total to bowl to was down primarily to a watchful 100 run stand between Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey, and some late order fireworks from Brett Lee and Nathan Bracken. The Australians started poorly, unable to get out of the blocks as quickly as is the norm with Gilchrist around. Katich was first to go, attempting an expansive drive to be only chop the ball onto his stumps. Three balls later, Martyn was caught plumb in front by Pollock and the Aussies were two wickets down for only five runs. When Gilchrist went to a top-edged pull soon after, the Aussies were quite a bit of trouble at three for 25.

However, Clarke and Hussey restored order with a sensible partnership of exactly 100. Neither played any risky shots and both slowly built up the total. Clarke in particular was impressive, playing a number of elegant shots down the ground. He was dismissed just as the time came to force the pace due to a piece of brilliance by AB de Villiers at cover. Clarke drove a wide half-volley from Pollock, only to see it plucked out of mid-air by de Villiers.

Hussey went quickly after Clarke, again attempting to raise the scoring rate for a well-made, if sedate, 56. When Hogg was run out in a curious fashion by a Gibbs direct-hit, the Aussies were again looking down the barrel at 162 for six. Hogg seemed to be protecting himself from a throw from the fielder and failed to ground his bat or dive. Either action probably would have saved him. The rain then came, and when the innings resumed, Australia had another seven overs to bat. Watson, Lee and Bracken made sure they made the most of these overs, collectively adding 72 in eight overs. Lee in particular did well, scoring 38 from just 28 balls with two enormous sixes. Bracken collected a pair of maximums himself with a quickfire cameo of 16 in eight balls before being run out attempting to run on a wide. The Aussies finished on a competitive score of 229 for eight in their 47 overs.

Smith began his innings confidently, taking nine runs off Lee’s opening over. However, the innings briefly threatened to run off the rails when Dippenaar and Gibbs went in succession. First Dippenaar was bowled by Bracken, then Gibbs was brilliantly run out by Clarke attempting a risky single. The score was 28 for 2 and it was upto Smith to steady the innings, which he did with ease. AB de Villiers and Smith flayed the bowling in their stand of 83 in just over ten overs. De Villiers in particular was looking in sublime form, and played several excellent shots including one pull for six off Johnson in an over which yielded 19 runs.

At the other end, Smith was continuing his good form from the opening Twenty20 match. There he had finished just short of a century, here he made one with time to spare. Smith brought up his 50 from only 51 balls and his ton from 110 balls. He batted through the dismissals of de Villiers for 43 off only 30 deliveries – to a fine edge off Hogg to the keeper, and Boucher, run out in farcical fashion for four.

However, Smith then calmly added the remaining runs with a relatively sedate Justin Kemp, who was unbeaten on 24 at the end. The pair added 73 in 87 balls, with Smith contributing the majority of those runs. The South Africans eventually reached their target of 204 with 21 balls to spare, Smith finishing unbeaten on 119 off 124 balls with 12 fours and a single six.

The South Africans will be delighted with the beginning to the 2nd leg of the series against Australia. After a difficult time in Australia, with injuries affecting and the poor form of Smith at the top of the order affecting their VB Series campaign, they seem to have turned it around with Smith leading from the front. The Australians will be looking to square the ledger in the next match at Cape Town, where they will be welcoming Andrew Symonds and captain Ricky Ponting back into the side. However, the South Africans at full strength and at home are a powerful outfit and victory will not be easy for Australia.

Australia 229-8 (47 overs)
Michael Hussey 56, Michael Clarke 53
Shaun Pollock 3/23, Makhaya Ntini 2/42

South Africa 207-4 (target: 204 in 41 overs)
Graeme Smith 119*, AB de Villiers 43
Nathan Bracken 1/27, Brad Hogg 1/30

South Africa won by 6 wickets.

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Graeme Smith (South Africa)

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