Janneman Malan turned around his fortunes from the previous game by amassing his first ODI hundred after a first-ball duck on his debut in the previous game. The 23-year old carried his bat through the innings ensuring a series victory for South Africa that came at the end of a disappointing home summer.
Malan turned up with an old-fashioned ODI ton scoring only 19 runs off 27 balls in the first 10 overs trying to resurrect South Africa's run-chase after losing Quinton de Kock in the first over of the innings. He added 91 runs off 121 balls for the second wicket with JJ Smuts who himself scored 41 at a modest strike-rate of 64. But more importantly, the duo kept the home side in the game.
Once both Smuts and Kyle Verreyne were dismissed in quick succession, Malan found an ideal partner in Heinrich Klaasen who continued from where he left off in the first ODI in Paarl. While Malan continued to focus on rotating the strike (scoring only 2 boundaries between overs 11 to 40, collecting 64 runs off 84 balls), Klaasen upped the ante. The right-hander who was man-of-the-match in Paarl scored 51 off 52 balls transferring the pressure on Australia. The two added 81 off 88 before Klaasen lobbed a Pat Cummins-delivery to Aaron Finch at mid-wicket.
However, the partnership had put South Africa in front in a game which saw both sides with contrasting beginnings and ending to their innings. South Africa scored 78 runs without losing a wicket in the last 10 overs of the innings. Malan, after taking the backseat during his partnership with Klaasen was the senior pro in the death-over phase with David Miller. With the match nicely set-up, the two finished the game with nine deliveries left in a partnership of 90 from only 60 balls. Malan's strike-rate in this phase was 164.3 as the right-hander piled up 46 runs off 28 balls with the help of five fours and two sixes to finish with 129* off 139 deliveries. On the other hand, Australia's innings fell flat in the death overs where they lost six wickets to account for only 49 runs.
The Aussies though started in a brisk manner. Opening for the 14th time since re-uniting in the 2019 World Cup, Finch and David Warner notched up the seventh 50-plus stand between themselves raising Australia's 50 in only 37 deliveries. On the other hand, de Kock, South Africa's biggest asset with the bat across formats over the last 12 months was castled by Mitchell Starc for the third time on this tour.
It was Lungi Ngidi who led South Africa's fightback with the ball. He not only broke the opening partnership by dismissing Warner for 35 off 23 but also sent back Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne off successive deliveries in the 13th over to push them on the back foot.
Finch and D'Arcy Short then batted responsibly through the middle overs to ensure that Australia stayed in the hunt for a formidable score. Both were at the helm of the visitors' innings one after the other. While Short was struggling during the early phase of his innings, Finch batted firmly in their fourth wicket stand of 77 runs. Finch scored a well-paced 69 from 87 balls and looked set for a big score until his innings was cut short by Anrich Nortje in the 29th over.
Short batted along with Mitchell Marsh in another crucial stand - adding 66 for the fifth wicket - and brought up his maiden ODI fifty. Courtesy of their stand, Australia entered the death overs phase placed nicely at 222 for four with two set batsmen in the middle but could not capitalize.
From a point where they should've been targeting 300-plus, Australia lost both Short and Marsh in the space of three overs; to Tabraiz Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo respectively and then surrendered to the Ngidi show.
Having picked three wickets earlier, Ngidi ran through Australia's lower-order choking them towards the back end of their innings. The only boundary Aussies managed in the last five overs of the innings came through an overthrow from Miller. Ngidi picked three wickets in his last two overs ending up with his career best of six for 58. Australia made only 49 in the last 10 for the loss of six wickets.
But there was still one common factor between the two sides. Both teams gave extra lives to the opposition batsmen which cost them. South Africa dropped as many as four catches, three of which came shortly after Ngidi's twin strikes.
Smuts failed to hold on to a one-handed attempt to catch Finch at leg-slip off the bowling of Shamsi. In the 18th over, Phehlukayo dropped a straightforward chance off his own bowling to dismiss Short. Two overs later, Miller almost converted a half chance at short mid-wicket by leaping up with his right-arm outstretched. The ball did though not stick in his palm and Short continued to live a charmed life early on. In the 47th over, Miller dropped a dolly by his standards which further led to five overthrows.
In reply, Cummins dismissed Smuts in his first spell but replays suggested he had failed to get his ankle behind the popping crease by a few millimetres. Needless to say, all these reprieves played a big role in the proceedings of the game.
With two highly critical contributions in the game, both Ngidi and Malan were handed the man-of-the-match award as joint winners.
Earlier, Finch won the toss and elected to bat first. Australia brought in Ashton Agar, who dismantled South Africa's batting unit during the T20I series, to replace Josh Hazlewood. The move vastly spoke about the slow surface at the Mangaung Oval. South Africa also started the innings with Keshav Maharaj bowling the first over. Although there was turn for spinners but it was not enough to bamboozle the batsmen as the tweakers scalped only three out of the 14 wickets to fall in the day.
In the South African camp, Temba Bavuma was withdrawn from the remainder on the series as a precaution after his hamstring strain. Smuts took his place in the XI.