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David Miller’s finest night: SA seal series against Australia with emphatic chase

David Miller’s finest night: SA seal series against Australia with emphatic chase

David Miller, wobbling on one-leg, and Andile Phehlukwayo, 20 years old with just three ODI caps to his name, guided South Africa to a thrilling win at Kingsmead on Wednesday night. The Proteas wrapped up the five-match ODI series with two games still to play as both men played the innings of their lives. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

When David Miller went for a T20 stint in Yorkshire in England back in 2012, he didn’t have any trainers. He was so desperate to get to training that he just padded up wearing his fancy shoes and got on with it. On Wednesday night, Miller showed that same dogged persistence of getting on with it and which has made him a household name in T20 leagues around the world.

Injured and basically batting on one leg, Miller resurrected South Africa’s chase in the third one-day international against Australia to help his side chase down 372 and win by four wickets. Well supported by Andile Phehlukwayo, who played one of the most awkward – but effective – knocks of his career to date, South Africa completed the highest ever successful run chase at Kingsmead, beating the previous record by a hundred runs.

It was also South Africa’s second highest ever run chase (the first being the famous 438-8 game) and, just like on that day at the Wanderers, whatever Australia could do, South Africa could do better.

David Warner and Steven Smith had earlier notched up hundreds to guide the Aussies to an imposing total with South Africa’s frontline pair of Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada each notching up record figures for runs conceded in an ODI.

The Proteas started well with Quinton de Kock’s 70 and Hashim Amla’s 45, setting the foundation, but Faf du Plessis, Rilee Rossouw and JP Duminy all failed to contribute significantly, with only Du Plessis passing the 20-run mark with his 33. And by the time South Africa were 265-6, it looked like the game might be dead and buried.

Miller was at the crease, but hobbling on one leg with an injured groin, and the rest of the batting was thin. But Miller and Phehlukwayo were set on piling more misery on the Australians who have copped a thorough beating on this tour so far. The pair combined for an unbeaten 107-run partnership to see their side home and send the dressing room into sheer ecstasy as South Africa wrapped up the five-match series with two games still to play.

For both players, this was the finest night of their careers, for different reasons.

Miller, who has often been inconsistent at international level, despite his prowess in various T20 leagues across the globe, could not have been timelier. With a congested batting line-up in the one-day format, Miller has shown that despite the sheer frustration he has bestowed on South African fans, he might be worth persisting with for just a little while longer.

This innings was no fluke. While Australia’s bowling was absolutely woeful at times, Miller played to his strengths and managed to keep his cool under immense pressure and, for a large part, with an inexperienced teammate.

Miller has had these moments before. Last year, he hit his maiden ODI century and although he had his highest ever average for a year in 2015, it just always seemed as if it was a bit hit and miss for the man with a reputation for being a destroyer of various bowling attacks in T20s.

For a player whose motto is “if it’s in the V it’s in a tree, if it’s in the arc it’s out the park”, that inconsistency is perhaps not much of a surprise. In modern day cricket, though, Miller is the kind of player that you might need to keep around for moments like these. But that kind of talent can also be nurtured and channelled, and it is up to the South African management to ensure that he finds the right outlet for that talent, even when there are people who will doubt him.

For Phehlukwayo, his part in this victory – including his effort with the ball – should help make him feel more at home at international level. Not that his talents were ever in doubt, but he is only 20 years old, only made his international debut last month, and international cricket is unforgiving and can be an incredibly lonely place if things don’t go your way.

By his own admission, he struggled to get bat on ball early on in his innings, but keeping his cool under pressure and managing to hang on and then hit the winning runs will go a long way in making him feel more settled about what he has to contribute to this team.

The words “team culture” are often used when speaking about what makes great teams. For a little while earlier this year, South Africa looked like they had just let some of that culture slip. But when Imran Tahir was punching his teammates in the dressing room and Dale Steyn ran out onto the field to give Phehlukwayo a bear hug as he walked off, that culture was very much alive. DM

Scorecard summary: South Africa won by four wickets (four balls remaining)

Australia 371-6: David Warner 117 (107), Steve Smith 108 (107), Imran Tahir 10-0-54-2; Dale Steyn 10-0-96-2

South Africa 372-6: David Miller 118* (79), Quinton de Kock 70 (49); John Hastings 10-0-79-2, Mitchell Marsh 10-0-61-1

Photo: South Africa’s David Miller celebrates scoring a century. Australia v South Africa – Third ODI cricket match – Kingsmead Cricket Stadium, Durban, South Africa – 5/10/2016. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

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