Lee Keeps Series Alive

After two disappointing defeats to start the series, particularly the embarrassing capitulation at the hands of Makhaya Ntini in the second ODI, Australia bounced back in the third match at Port Elizabeth to keep the series alive. After a solid rather than brilliant batting display, the visitors rode on the back of a brilliant spell of fast bowling by Brett Lee to a 24-run win.

Having lost the toss and been put in to bat, the Australians started slowly but steadily, with Simon Katich grafting his way to 49 from 80 balls before the pain of being run out one short of a half century, the second wicket to fall with the score at 99, after Adam Gilchrist was the first to go after a quickfire 25, falling with the team score on just 36.

The next 15 overs saw a lift in the run-rate as returning captain Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn put on 74 for the third wicket, both batsmen reaching their half centuries. Both batsmen built their innings more around running between the wickets than boundary-hitting, with Ponting hitting 5 fours and Martyn just one four and a six. When Ponting fell for 62, caught by Robin Peterson off the bowling of Shaun Pollock, the innings exploded to life with 79 runs being scored in the last ten overs. Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey both helped themselves to scores in excess of 20 at better than a run a ball, the boundary being cleared once by Clarke and twice by Hussey as the two put 29 in just three overs.

That closing burst gave the tourists a score of 254-6, a great improvement over the double-figure total they limped to in the embarrassing second ODI. However, with the strong and seemingly in-form South African top order to bowl to, it seemed the home side had the advantage and could easily get the score and in doing so gain an unassailable lead in the series.

But Lee had other ideas. In just the third over of the innings captain Graeme Smith, who scored a century in the first ODI, edged a Lee delivery through to Gilchrist. After Boeta Dippenaar and Herschelle Gibbs both departed for 16, lbw to Shane Watson and run out respectively, the dangerous Mark Boucher fell the same way as Smith did for just 5. When the powerful Justin Kemp was dismissed without scoring by Stuart Clark, the South Africans were 69-5 and in a considerable amount of trouble.

But then AB de Villiers and Shaun Pollock cleaned up the mess and got things back on track, putting on 119 for the seventh wicket at a surprisingly strong run rate considering the disastrous start. Both batsmen hit boundaries regularly and both reached well-deserved half centuries. When the partnership was broken by Shane Watson, Pollock out bowled for 69, as is so often the case the other member of the partnership soon followed. De Villiers, against the spin of part-timer Clarke, went for a big hit straight down the ground only to be astonishingly caught one-handed by a diving Brad Hogg. When Lee returned and made short work of Andrew Hall and Peterson, the result seemed a foregone conclusion at 199-9.

Roger Telemachus, who had been so disappointing with the ball earlier in the day, made sure the match wasn’t finished as an exciting contest though, hitting three sixes in his innings of 29 from just 13 balls. The rollicking innings from the number ten would have given Ponting and his team a few worrying moments as the home side put on 31 for the last wicket in just over two overs with Telemachus scoring all but two of them, but Nathan Bracken put their nerves at ease in the 48th over, trapping Telemachus lbw and ending the South African innings at 230.

After being so comprehensively beaten in the second ODI, Australia had more at stake today than just the series. But they managed to regain their pride and confidence as well as keeping the smallest glimmer of hope of a series victory alive on the horizon with a convincing win.

Australia 254-6
Ricky Ponting 62, Damien Martyn 51
Shaun Pollock 2-45, Andrew Hall 1-39

South Africa 230
Shaun Pollock 69, AB de Villiers 68
Brett Lee 4-48, Shane Watson 2-49

Australia won by 24 runs.

Cricket Web Player of the Match

Brett Lee – 4-48

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