Port Elizabeth - South Africa’s much maligned top-order finally shook off the cobwebs in the second one-day international against Australia in Port Elizabeth and stand-in skipper Hashim Amla was understandably over the moon with the way that his charges had performed.
The Proteas top-order had failed to fire on a consistent basis since the start of Australia’s short tour to the Republic but they came good on Sunday with Jacques Kallis (76), Graeme Smith (57), JP Duminy (56) and David Miller (59) all making significant contributions with the bat as South Africa secured an 80-run win to level the series.
“This is the way we have played cricket over the last few years and it's taken us a while to get there. It's been a bit erratic at times,” Amla said in the aftermath of the win.
One of the most pleasing aspects of South Africa’s victory was the big partnerships that they built in amassing their total of 303 for six, an aspect of their game that they will want to continue when the two teams meet in the series decider in Durban on Friday.
Kallis and Smith combined for a 142-run second-wicket stand while Duminy and Miller added 107 runs for the fifth-wicket.
“I'm not too sure if it was a 300 wicket, probably a 250-par score but those partnerships built it up,” explained Amla.
“Everyone knows Graeme and the amount of work he puts in and the desire he has. When he is playing well, we usually get good starts.
“JP has a lot of experience. He assessed the situation, saw David was playing well so he didn't have to force the pace. We know at the back end of the game he is very aggressive, he's got fantastic hands and lovely scoring areas,” he added.
Amla, who failed to score after falling off the first ball of the match, is hopeful that his team’s good form with the bat will spill over to the Durban match.
“In the last game we lacked partnerships but the boys came back and showed what we're capable of. The bowlers responded beautifully as well. There is all to play for in Durban now.” he concluded.
Australia captain Michael Clarke said he was not surprised at the way South Africa had responded after the 93-run shellacking they had suffered in the first match of the series.
“They're a very good team, plenty of experience and they love playing in their home conditions so we need to be at our best to beat them. We weren't tonight and obviously the result didn't go our way,” said Clarke.
Of greater concern to Australia was the injury suffered by key all-rounder Shane Watson. Watson was forced to leave the field after bowling just 3.5 overs while he looked distinctly uncomfortable when he came out to bat at five instead of his customary opening slot after suffering from back spasms.
But Clarke is positive that Watson will be fit for the series decider.
“It was a very positive sign that he went back out and batted and I am very confident that he will ready for Friday's game," said Clarke.