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Ngidi and Malan steer Proteas to first series win in Boucher era

Ngidi and Malan steer Proteas to first series win in Boucher era
South Africa's Lungi Ngidi celebrates taking the wicket of Steve Smith during the second One-Day International match between the Proteas and Australia at Mangaung Oval on 4 March in Bloemfontein. (Photo: Johan Pretorius / Gallo Images / Getty Images)

The Proteas won a series for the first time in a year with the highest-ever run chase in Bloemfontein to win the second One-Day International against Australia. They clinched the series 2-0 with a game to spare.

The Mark Boucher era feels like it has finally taken off after months of pain, improvement, near misses and finally victory for the coach and his youthful squad.

Janneman Malan and Lungi Ngidi were the main actors in a polished Proteas production in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, as they beat Australia by six wickets following their 74-run win in the first One-Day International (ODI) in Paarl last Saturday.

Australia won the toss, batted and scored 271 in their 50 overs with the final wicket falling on the final ball of the innings. The previous highest run chase in Bloemfontein came more than 20 years ago when England scored 265 to beat South Africa.

The Proteas, though, were never daunted and chased down the target with nine balls to spare thanks to the heroics of opener Janneman Malan who carried his bat on the way to 129 not out off 139 balls with seven fours and four sixes.

Malan will never forget his first week in ODI cricket. Last Saturday in Paarl he became the first batsman in the history of this version of the sport to be dismissed for a duck with the first ball of the match on debut.

If there was any comfort for Malan – brother of newly established Proteas Test opener Pieter – it was that the great Indian duo of Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni both failed to score on ODI debut. And their careers turned out pretty well.

Five days after his Paarl misery, Malan was plundering the Aussie attack to all parts of the Bloemfontein pitch. He was able to showcase his talents thanks to fast bowler Lungi Ngidi’s heroics earlier in the day. Ngidi tore through the Australian batting lineup with career-best figures of six for 58 to restrict Australia to a lower total than looked likely after openers David Warner and Aaron Finch put on 50 in six overs. The former holed out to Malan at mid-off for 35 off 23 balls to start the slide.

Malan’s efforts and Ngidi’s penetration with the ball gave them top billing, but strong supporting roles from Jon-Jon Smuts, David Miller, Anrich Nortje and Heinrich Klaasen were also vital in securing South Africa’s 10th win in their last 11 ODI meetings against Australia.

Malan shared partnerships of 91 with Smuts, 81 with Klaasen and an unbeaten 90 with Miller to carry South Africa over the line after a summer of Test, T20 and ODI series losses to England and a T20 series loss against Australia.

Once Warner was back in the dugout, Ngidi forced Steve Smith into a loose shot. Smuts completed the catch at midwicket as Smith parted for 13. Marnus Labuschagne came and went, caught sharply by Malan off the next ball. Ngidi had ripped the heart out of the Aussie batting in four overs.

“I was given the challenge by the coach (Boucher) to knock over Australia’s big three (Warner, Labuschagne and Smith),” Ngidi said. “I came out with that mentality and it went well. I used a lot of cross-seam and scrambled seam and then at the back end I utilised a lot of slower balls.”

Australia lost their last six wickets for 49 runs with Ngidi picking up another three while Finch (69) and D’Arcy Short (69) provided the bulk of Australia’s runs.

“We were 20-30 runs short after the start we made,” Australia captain Finch said. “Once the shine went off the ball we knew it would get a bit tougher. The ball started to hold up a little bit and we kept losing wickets at key times.

“As we started to build a partnership we lost a wicket. The difference is we had a few guys score around 70 and they had a guy get 129 not out. Having someone bat right to the end makes a huge difference.”

South Africa’s run chase started poorly with captain Quinton de Kock dismissed for a duck. He played across the line to a straight ball from Mitchell Starc, which knocked over the middle stump.

But as in Paarl when De Kock failed to make a significant contribution, the rest of the South African batting order stood up – none more so than Malan. He had to curb his natural aggression to ensure he batted through the innings.

“There was a bit of a chat about targets after 30 overs out in the middle,” Malan said. “My partners kept me calm when I was itching a bit to have a go. They told me I needed to bat through the innings.”

Smuts (41) and Klaasen (51) paced the innings superbly and it was left to Miller (37 not out off 29 balls) to bring Malan, and the series, home.

“The idea coming into the series was to give a few youngsters a chance,” De Kock said. “I know they are fresh into ODI cricket, but they have all played a lot of franchise cricket and they know how to play the game.

“It’s nice to go to Potchefstroom (for the third match) as series winners, but we don’t want to take the foot off the gas. We owe it to ourselves to go for another win. We have fought really hard all throughout the season to try and win games and it has never really gone our way. Now that we are winning we must keep that momentum.” DM

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