South Africa

T20 SA vs AUS

Proteas drop the ball in crushing loss to Australia

Proteas drop the ball in crushing loss to Australia
Ashton Agar of Australia celebrates a wicket of Pite van Biljon of South Africa during the 2020 International 1st T20 Series match between South Africa and Australia at the Imperial Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg on the 21 February 2020 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

South Africa fell to an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Australia in the opening match of their T20 series at the Wanderers.

Australia made the best possible start to their tour of South Africa. They trampled all over the Proteas, thanks in large to the heroics of spinner Ashton Agar, who tore through South Africa’s batting line-up to record a hattrick and eventually finish with a five-wicket haul.

His web-spinning helped Australia record a massive 107-run victory over the home team.

Dale Steyn had laid a great foundation for the Proteas when he removed the dangerous David Warner for four with the second ball of the match, assisted by a good Tabraiz Shamsi’s catch on the boundary at fine leg.

In the second over the Proteas had a chance to dismiss Steve Smith, another immense player. This after he had slashed a ball hard towards third man.

Steyn got under the ball for what seemed to be an easy catch. But he was a victim of the floodlights, which had been switched on early due to the gloomy weather.

The pacer missed the ball by a few centimetres as the brightness of the lights pierced his eyes and it dropped right next to him.

That sequence of play would prove to be an instance of foreshadowing for the horrors that awaited the hosts, with Agar their chief tormentor.

The game, which took place at the Wanderers on Friday 21 February 2020, was the first in a three-match T20 series between the pair. It was sold-out, but gloomy weather kept a handful of the ticket holders away.

Nevertheless, those in attendance were abundant enough to light up the iconic Bullring.

After a thrilling tight 2-1 series loss to England in the recent T20 incoming tour, the hosts had their eyes set on claiming bragging rights as they took on their long-standing rivals.

It was the first time that the Aussies had been back in South Africa since the ball-tampering scandal of 2018, with one of the villains from that saga, Steve Smith, speaking prior to the game.

“It’s nice to be back playing in South Africa. The last time I was here, things didn’t end overly well, but I’ve also got really fond memories of playing here. Just walking into the hotel in Sandton, initially I was like, ‘the last time I left here it wasn’t pretty’. It wasn’t the best time in my life. But I’ve moved on from that and learned a lot,” the batsman said.

South Africa won the toss and Proteas captain, Quinton de Kock chose to bowl first.

His team welcomed back the previously rested duo of Faf du Plessis and Kagiso Rabada, with middle-order batsman Pite van Biljon making his debut for the Proteas. Temba Bavuma was missing through injury.

“We played on the same wicket in the ODI against England and the short boundary came in handy,” De Kock said at the toss. “We had two days off, and the boys are back and excited to play again. Great to have KG and Faf back.”

And play they did, with stalwart seamer Steyn getting the Proteas off to the best start when he got the early breakthrough, Australian opener Warner out for four with the second ball of the match.

The Proteas had an opportunity to inflict more misery on the Australians when Smith skied one off the bowling of Lungi Ngidi. 

However, Steyn misjudged the flight of the ball thanks to the glare of the flood flights.

Smith would go on to punish the Proteas for that error as he set up an 80-run partnership with Aaron Finch to ensure that his team recovered despite the early setback.

There was hope of a comeback when South Africa picked up three quick wickets thanks to Shamsi (two) and Steyn between the ninth and twelfth overs.

That momentum was stunted however as a 50-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Alex Carey and Mitchell Marsh took the game further away from South Africa.

In the end Australia posted a formidable total of 196 for six for South Africa to chase.

Australia got off to an almost identical start to the Proteas with the ball in hand.

Mitchell Starc bowled a peach of a ball to rearrange the stumps and have De Kock headed back to the changeroom with just the third ball of the game.

From then on Australia did what the South Africans had failed to do: pick up wickets at regular intervals, leaving the Proteas reeling at 40 for four after seven overs – the game seemingly over before it even began.

On came spinner Agar. And he proceeded to rip the South African middle-order apart and spinning his way to a hattrick. It went Du Plessis (24), Phehlukwayo (0) and Steyn (0); leaving the Proteas teetering on the ropes at 44 for seven.

From then on an Australian victory was just a formality, with the ravenous Agar picking up a further two wickets to record final figures of five for 24, his best return in international T20 cricket.

The tourists bowled Mark Boucher’s man out for a measly 89 runs to record a mammoth 107-run victory – their biggest in T20s against South Africa.

They will now only have one day to reflect on a defeat where they were topped in every aspect of the game: batting, bowling and fielding.

They take on the visitors again on Sunday, 23 February 2020. DM

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