Aussies scrape home to beat South Africa in tense T20 World Cup opener

Marcus Stoinis helped Australia complete a gripping five-wicket win over South Africa in its men’s T20 World Cup opener, rescuing his side after they flirted with disaster in pursuit of a victory target of 119.

Stoinis (24 not out) slapped two boundaries in the final over as he and Matthew Wade (15 not out) shepherded Australia home with two balls remaining, sharing an unbeaten 40-run stand in Abu Dhabi.

Josh Hazlewood extended his superb Indian Premier League form into the T20 World Cup, helping restrict the Proteas to 9-118.

It would have taken a record-breaking calamity for Australia to fall short of victory: New Zealand’s inability to haul in a target of 120 against Sri Lanka in 2014 remains the lowest failed chase in this tournament’s short history.

Yet Australian coach Justin Langer would be forgiven for feeling a touch apprehensive watching Aaron Finch (duck), David Warner (14) and Mitch Marsh (11) depart, as his side crawled to 3-38 in the eight over.

Langer’s mood would have further soured at 5-83, with the victory equation suddenly a challenging 36 runs from four overs.

Batters Steve Smith (35) and Glenn Maxwell (18) had just departed in the previous two overs, giving Wade and Stoinis little time to find their feet.

Steve Smith made 35 during Australia’s run chase.(Reuters: Hamad I Mohammed)

The power-hitting pair did not panic, however, advancing Australia to a point where it needed eight runs from the final over without taking too many risks.

The Proteas were left to lament a tough caught-and-bowled chance put down by Anrich Nortje in the penultimate over of the match, when Stoinis whacked the ball straight back at the paceman.

Australia’s stop-start chase hit its first hurdle when Aaron Finch fell for a fifth-ball duck.

Warner — who entered this match under near-unprecedented scrutiny — crashed three boundaries off Kagiso Rabada, before falling victim on 14 to the same bowler.

Earlier, Australia unleashed Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins in the same bowling attack for the first time in T20 cricket.

An Australian male bowler pumps his right fist as he celebrates taking a South African wicket.
Australian quick Josh Hazlewood (right) celebrates dismissing Proteas opener Quinton de Kock.(Getty/ICC: Gareth Copley)

Hazlewood — fresh from a starring role in Chennai Super Kings’ charge to their fourth Indian Premier League (IPL) title — set the tone when called into the attack after two overs.

The paceman produced a remarkable two-over spell that cost just one run and featured the scalps of Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen.

The right-armer had failed to play a single T20 international for more than four years after the previous World Cup in 2016, but exhibited trademark precision coupled with IPL lessons about the ideal awkward length in these conditions.

The Proteas struggled to swing momentum after Hazlewood’s dot-ball deluge, despite a gutsy knock of 40 from top-scorer Aiden Markram.

Australia next faces Sri Lanka in Dubai on Friday (AEDT).


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