Cape Town – David Miller will never forget his first century
for South Africa in a chase … particularly not when it has won a one-day
international series against old adversaries Australia.
The power-smacking left-hander had critical aid at the
business end of a pulsating third contest at Kingsmead on Wednesday from a
marvellously free-spirited and at least outwardly nerveless rookie in Andile
Phehlukwayo, 20, which is further manna for the Proteas to dine on as they bask
in the glory of their unassailable 3-0 lead with just St George’s Park and
Newlands to play.
But “Miller Time” came into play to such a brutal, decisive
extent that the now Bloemfontein-based player, relishing his return to an old
stamping ground, was a simple pick for man-of-the-match with his unbeaten 118
at a strike rate of a fraction under 150.
By chasing down 371, the host nation achieved their second
steepest chase in this format yet (only the iconic 438 game stands above it)
and all of their best three have now come against the Aussies.
It also emphatically rewrote the record books at Kingsmead,
where a score all of 100 runs shy of it was the previous premier effort in a
winning cause batting second.
That very statistic, indicating the degree of difficulty
under such circumstances at the venue, tells you so much about the quality of
Miller’s knock, and he was immediately heaped with this to-the-point tribute by
clearly ecstatic captain Faf du Plessis in the post-match TV interview: “David
Miller take a bow … that was one of the best innings you’ll ever see.”
The 27-year-old from Pietermaritzburg boasts two prior
centuries in ODIs, although both came under the less taxing environment of
setting rather than pursuing a target, so this one seems sure to go down as his
most satisfying by a country mile.
The first two came during a period in early January 2015
when it appeared Miller was finally “arriving” as a match-winning, finishing
factor with his smoking blade.
First he made 130 not out against West Indies in Port
Elizabeth, having taken guard at No 5 and the Proteas a shaky 32 for three –
his innings there accounted for almost exactly half of the eventual total of
262 for eight; the Windies later edged the contest by one wicket.
Miller then got his World Cup off to a roaring start as he
importantly settled some team butterflies against minnow neighbours Zimbabwe at
Hamilton: SA were a less than convincing 83 for four when he started out but he
and JP Duminy completely altered the situation as both men blitzed their way to
Since that day, however, the player has largely lapsed back
into spluttering ways at his difficult middle-order trade: until Wednesday’s
heroics he had not managed to post even a half-century in 19 knocks and his
place has been well less than secure again.
But he has a right now to expect a bit more breathing space
in his quest to fire more regularly, including the slightly more relaxed
settings for him and his team-mates in the two immediate dead-rubber clashes against
the Australians over the next few days.
Apart from displaying a notably wide range of attacking
strokes – proving he doesn’t just prosper when he can free his arms – Miller
ticked a box indelibly for “ticker” and durability at Kingsmead.
He was impeded from relatively early on in his gradually
more dazzling pyrotechnics display by a groin or upper leg injury which, apart
from the discomfort factor, meant he had to judge his running between the
wickets unusually carefully.
To add to his physical woe, he later took a stinging blow to
his left hip as he attempted a swivelling shot off Mitchell Marsh, but apart
from the odd mini-break for bits of physio, never wavered in his determination
-- or composure -- to get the job done for his country.
The fact that former Dolphins ally Phehlukwayo played his own
natural, bright and breezy game in an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 107 –
when they came together the odds had seemed hugely loaded the Aussie way – meant
the visitors’ inexperienced, vulnerable bowlers were basically copping it from
both ends and unable to cope with the blitzkrieg.
This was certainly one for pretty prime placement in the
South African limited-overs annals …
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