Abu Dhabi, Oct 23 (IANS): Australia had some nervous moments but overcame them to beat South Africa by five wickets in a tense, low-scoring Group 1 match in the Super 12 stage of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium here on Saturday. With this win, Australia got their campaign off to a winning start despite South Africa taking the match till the final over.
Chasing a paltry 119, Australia lost openers Aaron Finch and David Warner in the power-play. While Finch sliced to third man off Anrich Nortje, Warner drove straight to point off Kagiso Rabada. After power-play, Mitchell Marsh holed out to deep mid-wicket off Keshav Maharaj.
Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell raised 42 runs in as many balls for the fourth wicket. The duo played risk-free cricket, rotated the strike, and dispatched rare loose balls for boundaries. The pick of the shots from the partnership was Smith creating room and going inside-out on backfoot over extra cover off a short ball from Maharaj in the 13th over.
Just as the partnership looked to go big, Aiden Markram pulled off a stunning running and diving catch from long-on to send Smith back to the pavilion. In the next over, Maxwell decided to break free with a switch hit but was cleaned up by Tabraiz Shamsi.
Matthew Wade took two fours off Rabada in the 17th over, including a dropped chance by Markram at mid-off. Marcus Stoinis thumped a back-of-the-length delivery from Nortje for four in the 19th over. He then slammed a straight drive followed by a heave over deep mid-wicket off Pretorius in the final over to seal Australia's victory with two balls to spare.
Earlier in the South Africa innings, Temba Bavuma took back-to-back boundaries on drives against Mitchell Starc in the opening over. But in the next over, Bavuma's middle stump was felled by Maxwell. Josh Hazlewood took two wickets in his two overs, a blow from which South Africa never recovered. He forced Rassie van der Dussen to nick one behind to Wade followed by taking out Quinton de Kock, with the batter trying to scoop but the ball dropped onto the stumps.
'outh Africa's slide continued as Heinrich Klassen was caught at backward point off Pat Cummins. Leg-spinner Adam Zampa struck twice in the 14th over, trapping David Miller lbw followed by Dwaine Pretorius edging behind. With Keshav Maharaj run-out in a mix-up, there was no stopping South Africa's meltdown with the bat.
Markram stood tall amidst the ruins with a fighting 40. He began with a punch off Cummins followed by finding the gap through cover off Mitchell Starc, cutting Maxwell through point, and hammered Hazlewood over deep mid-wicket for the first six of the innings.
Markram looked set to give South Africa a flourish in the end. But he flicked Starc straight to deep mid-wicket in the 18th over. Despite Kagiso Rabada using the long handle, South Africa couldn't cross the 120-'ark, which wasn't enough to deny Australia two points.
Brief scores: South Africa 118/9 in 20 overs (Aiden Markram 40, Kagiso Rabada 19 not out, Josh Hazlewood 2/19, Adam Zampa 2/21) lost to Australia 121/5 in 19.4 overs (Steve Smith 35, Marcus Stoinis 24 not out, Anrich Nortje 2/21, Tabraiz Shamsi 1/22) by five wickets