AUSTRALIA’S push to win their first-ever T20 World Cup remains firmly on track, a 97-run thumping of South Africa in Cape Town handing the Australians four consecutive T20 series wins for the very first time.
In their first match at Newlands since the ball-tampering scandal two years ago, Australia’s crushing victory was built on a rollicking start with the bat and another accomplished performance by their impressive bowling attack.
A 120-run opening stand between David Warner (57 from 37 balls) and Aaron Finch (55 from 37) provided the foundation for Australia’s total of 5-193, the highest-ever in a T20I at Newlands.
And when Mitchell Starc removed Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis inside the opening three overs of the run chase, the former clean-bowled in identical fashion to his dismissal in the first match of the series, the Proteas were firmly on the back foot.
After Starc’s opening burst, it was leg-spinner Adam Zampa who impressed in the run chase, taking two excellent outfield catches and finishing with 2-10 from three overs as South Africa were bowled out for just 96 in the 16th over.
It is South Africa’s second-worst T20 loss to Australia, eclipsed only by the 107-run thrashing they suffered at the Wanderers five days ago.
In the past 12 months, Australia have now won T20 series in India and South Africa as well as home campaigns against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, losing just once in 11 matches.
Question marks remain over the make-up of their middle-order – the search for a late-innings finisher continues for coach Justin Langer and his fellow selectors – but the Australians have arguably never been as well placed to win the world 20-over title for the first time.
In contrast, Wednesday night’s defeat means South Africa are now winless in seven consecutive series across all formats, a run stretching back to March last year.
As was the case in the series-opener at the Wanderers, Australia wrestled the momentum in the early stages of the match, thanks to a blistering start with the bat.
Finch and Warner powered their way to 75 in the six-over Powerplay and brought up a hundred-partnership inside nine overs, highlighted by five consecutive boundaries either side of the four-over mark.
But the innings stalled when both men were dismissed in quick succession, with Matthew Wade (10 off nine balls) and Mitchell Marsh (19 off 16) moved up the order but unable to produce the kind of innings they need as they look to secure a World Cup spot.
It was left to the unlikeliest of finishers, Steve Smith, to steer Australia close to the 200 mark, which looked to be the minimum they would have expected after Finch and Warner’s opening burst.
Dropped down the order to No. 5, Smith finished unbeaten on 30 from 15 balls and clubbed 20 runs from the final over of the innings, including a jaw-dropping drive over the cover boundary that had the fans crammed onto the Newlands’ grass bank ducking for cover.
After Starc uprooted de Kock’s middle stump in the opening over, as he’d done at the Wanderers last Friday, he had Zampa to thank for the wicket of du Plessis in his next over.
The former Proteas skipper slashed at a ball so wide it would have been called had he missed it, squirting a top edge down to third man. Zampa sprinted forward to take the catch but the ball swerved viciously to the fielder’s left as he approached, the South Australian reacting expertly to take the catch as it threatened to whistle past him.
The leg-spinner then bowled Heinrich Klaasen and Pite van Biljon as he and Australia’s bowlers once again turned the screws in what the Australians hope is yet another preview of what’s to come at the World Cup this year.