David Miller scored his maiden half-century in the T20 international format to blast the Oxigen Proteas to a three-wicket victory over Australia with four balls to spare in the opening KFC T20 International match at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead on Friday evening.
Miller’s performance (53 off 35 balls, 3 fours and 3 sixes), which won him the KFC Man of the Match award, was a remarkable effort considering he was not used in the ODI Series against England and had only one innings in the T20 Series that followed.
One wouldn’t have thought he had had so little time in the middle, such was the perfection of his timing. He came to the crease at 72/4 with the target of 158 still looking a long way off. It rapidly became 72/5 when Faf du Plessis was run out but he settled into successive partnerships of 23 with David Wiese, 39 with Chris Morris and finally an unbroken 24 with Kyle Abbott who hit the winning boundary.
It represented a remarkable fightback for the Proteas after Australia had scored an imposing 69/1 in the six power play overs. But the Proteas then took 8/88 in the remaining 14 overs.
It meant that they still had to match the highest ever second winning score at this ground achieved by the Proteas against New Zealand in 2007.
They did not start the chase well when AB de Villiers was dismissed first ball for the first time in his international career and they found themselves 45/3 at the end of the power play with Quinton de Kock, who replaced Hashim Amla in the only change to the side that beat England, and JP Duminy also back in the hut.
They were not helped by the direct hit run outs of Du Plessis and Wiese further down the order and the Australian fielding was one of the highlights of the match.
Neither side batted as a unit as well as they would have liked while there was little to choose between the two bowling attacks. Australia also had the problem of using two inexperienced bowlers in Andrew Tye and Adam Zampa at the death.
The Proteas will be delighted with the bowling form of Wiese who played the major role alongside Imran Tahir in pulling the game back in the middle overs when Australia lost 5/44 in 9 overs. The death bowling continued to be up to scratch with Australia managing a further 3/44 in the final 5 overs.
So closely was the match contested that the teams were deadlocked at 114/5 after 15 overs and the Proteas only went ahead on comparable run rate in the following over when they scored 16 thanks to Miller collecting a four and a six.
They finally reduced the rate to less than a run a ball in the penultimate over before a single to Miller and then a straight hit for four to Abbott got them across the line in the final over.
The second match takes place at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Sunday afternoon.