Australia 165 for 2 (Marsh 76, Shamsi 1-40) beat South Africa 164 for 8 (Markram 49, Abbott 3-22) by eight wickets
The southern hemisphere’s equinox is still three weeks away but September 1 is celebrated as the day the seasons change in this part of the world, and it was Australia who left with the spring in their step after they wrapped up the T20I series in Durban. After defending 226 in the first T20I, they chased down 165 with more than five overs to spare in the second to suggest their depth is far stronger than that of their hosts.
South Africa’s most experienced bowler, Lungi Ngidi, has conceded the most runs in the series so far and his variations have not threatened enough, while the back-up seam options do not have the discipline to hold their own. In contrast, Australia’s pace pack was impressive and incisive and kept South Africa under control for most of the innings.
Australia’s edge ahead in the powerplay
Temba Bavuma moved on from duck in the first match with an aggressive 17-ball 35 in the first three overs before he skied Abbott to Josh Inglis. It opened the door for Australia to take the early honours. Abbott could have had Rassie van der Dussen in the same over when he beat him on the flick and struck the pad but Marsh decided it was too high to review.
Australia did not have to wait too long to see the back of the South African No.3. In the next over, van der Dussen was out lbw to Behrendorff and reviewed the decision but replays confirmed the ball would have gone on to his middle and off.
Then it was over to Ellis who closed out the powerplay with a double-wicket maiden. He tested Reeza Hendricks with a full and then shorter delivery before the length ball hit him under the knee roll, for which he was given out lbw. He then had Dewald Brevis reaching for a full ball that shaped away and was caught behind. His hat-trick delivery almost found Stubbs’ edge but the batter pulled out of the shot in time and South Africa went from 36 without loss to 46 for 4 in 18 balls.
Markram: the finisher and the starter
At 115 for 6 at the start of the 15th over, South Africa needed a strong finish to get to a competitive total and it was up to the captain to get them there. Markram started the last five overs with an 80-metre helicopter shot over long-on. He went on to flick Adam Zampa through mid-wicket and then drive him aerially over the covers for six and turned a run-a-ball 25 into a 38-ball 49. He was looking for a half-century when he hit a low full toss from Abbott to mid-wicket but South Africa scored 49 runs off the last five overs to finish with a decent total to defend. And the captain decided he would be the one to begin the defence.
After not bowling himself at all in the opening match, Markram took the new ball this time. He got away with a short ball down leg upfront and gave away just a single in the first over to put the pressure on Australia’s openers. But he kept himself on for an over too many and Travis Head took three fours off his second to put Australia back on track.
No fortune for Fortuin
Known for his ability to deliver a tight first over, Bjorn Fortuin had to wait until the eighth over and it turned out to be too late. By the time Fortuin was brought on Marsh was well set and left no margin for error and took 18 runs off him to take the game away from South Africa. When Fortuin went wide, Marsh first fetched him from outside off to hit him over midwicket then cut him through point; when Fortuin overpitched, Marsh drove through the covers and when Fortuin followed Marsh as he made room for himself outside off, the Australian captain saved the best for last and smashed him over mid-on for six. At 79 for 1, Australia were scoring at almost 10 runs an over after eight overs and had broken the back of the target.
Go Short(y), it’s your day
In just his second T20I, Short scored a match-winning first half-century in the format, at a strike rate of 220. After a fairly quiet start, he showed his intent as the powerplay came to an end and took 20 runs off Ngidi, whose slower ball only encouraged Short’s quick reactions. But it was later in the innings, when Gerald Coetzee was brought on to bowl a second that Short really showed off his touch. Although Coetzee’s inconsistency helped, Short timed the ball well through backward point, reached fifty with a powerful pull, helped a low full toss to fine leg for four, drove through the covers, and pulled over mid-wicket. The over cost 24 runs and the game was all but done.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent for South Africa and women’s cricket