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23 November 201419:16

Australia back at No. 1 after tense finish

South Africa concedes ODI series 4-1 after gripping final encounter in Sydney

Australia back at No. 1 after tense finish - Cricket News

Pat Cummins, Steve Smith, James Faulkner and Matthew Wade of Australia celebrate the wicket of Farhaan Behardien of South Africa

James Faulkner delivered the knockout punch in a tight finish as Australia beat South Africa by two wickets at Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday (November 23) in the fifth One-Day International to take the series 4-1.

Chasing a revised target of 275 in 48 overs after South Africa scored 280 for 6 from its 50 overs, Australia seemed to be cruising after vital contributions from Aaron Finch (76), Shane Watson (88) and Steve Smith (67). But it lost five wickets in the space of 29 deliveries to slip to 267 for 8. Faulkner, who didn't make an impact with the ball, then hit a boundary when it mattered as Australia won with five balls to spare.

The win also took Australia past India to the top of the Reliance ICC ODI Team Rankings

Australia's biggest positive was the return to form of Watson, whose belligerence at the top of the order threatened to reduce the chase into a canter. His second-wicket stand of 100 in 17 overs with Finch, who made his 76 runs from just 67 balls, set up the chase.

While the batsmen threw their wickets away to bad shots towards the end, Steve Smith, fresh off a combative century in Melbourne two nights ago, took Australia to the doorstep of victory before it was given the shivers by an attack that was considerably weakened in the absence of Dale Steyn, who had been rested.

But the day promised so much more for South Africa, especially after Quinton de Kock's sixth ODI century helped it post a competitive total. South Africa, which hit a roadblock in the middle overs, was powered later by Farhaan Behardien, whose 41-ball 63 injected the momentum towards the end. Behardien manned the lower order admirably as South Africa hit 80 off the last ten overs to go into the interval on a high.

The other important contributor in the piece was Rilee Rossouw, who brought up his maiden ODI half-century during the course of a vital 107-run stand for the second wicket with de Kock, steering the innings forward after South Africa lost Hashim Amla, the stand-in skipper in AB de Villiers’s absence, for 18 in the 11th over.

South Africa had come into this match with only pride on the line, having already conceded the series with the defeat in the fourth ODI in Melbourne.

De Kock, who had scored just one half-century in ten ODI innings prior to the match, played some solid strokes against Australia’s new-ball pair of Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, but mellowed down and paced his innings superbly after Glenn Maxwell had accounted for Amla.

Rossouw played second fiddle for most parts of his vigil and collected five boundaries during the course of his 71-ball 51 before Pat Cummins’s double strike on either side of a rain break threatened to spoil South Africa’s plans as it slipped from a comfortable 161 for 1 to 187 for 4.

While de Kock fell for 106, Behardien, whose place has come under scrutiny after a succession of failures, attacked and played fearlessly on the way to his second ODI fifty. While he teed off in style at everything pitched up, hitting seven fours and two sixes, Wayne Parnell rotated the strike sensibly and enjoyed the cameo from the best seat in the house to finish unbeaten on 18.

The chase wasn't going to be easy, but the power boost by David Warner (21 in 16 balls) and Finch put pressure on South Africa. It allowed the middle order to play without the pressure of the scoring rate. While Australia lost its way for a while, the excitement was largely artificial and the effort at the top was enough to overcome the mini setback.

Please click here to see the full scorecard of Australia v South Africa from Melbourne.