Australian hand-wringing about taking an under-strength bowling attack to South Africa was placed in sharp perspective on a breezy morning in Port Elizabeth. Facing a South African side resting three first-choice bowlers in a dead rubber, Steven Smith’s side were shot out for a mere 167 to set-up a six-wicket win.
Kyle Abbott and Tabraiz Shamsi were the chief tormentors of the tourists, the former finding exactly the right length to best use the early movement on offer, the latter re-opening the sorts of wounds inflicted by Sri Lanka’s spin bowlers on Australia’s previous tour with a clever spell of left arm wrist-spin. Neither had been needed in the live matches.
Save for a 50 by Mitchell Marsh and a punchy contribution from Matthew Wade, the most notable moment for Australia was Wade’s running battle with Shamsi. This culminated in something very near to a physical clash as Wade hung his elbow out while running past Shamsi, causing the umpires to intervene.
There were further exchanges as the Australians sought to defend their meagre total. Clearly the visitors had intended to fight this one out, but despite an improved bowling effort they never really had a chance to bowl South Africa out. A pair of missed chances did not help either, most notably a sitter dropped by Adam Zampa off Faf du Plessis, who went on to top-score with 69.
Summarized scores: South Africa 168 for 4 (du Plessis 69, Rossouw 33*) beat Australia 167 (Wade 52, Marsh 50, Abbott 4-40, Shamsi 3-36) by six wickets