South Africa defeated Australia by 12 runs in the second T20I at St. George's Park, Port Elizabeth on Sunday (February 23).
At the start of the 18th over of Australia's innings, with 25 runs needed from three overs and as many as seven wickets in hand, it was the away team's game to lose. Lungi Ngidi started the 18th over brilliantly, conceding just three runs off the first four deliveries. A wide followed, but you knew that the Australian batsmen were looking for a boundary to bring the required run-rate down.
Off the next delivery, unsurprisingly, Mitchell Marsh went for a big shot. Then came what you could call the turning point of the match, with Faf du Plessis and David Miller combining sensationally to complete a catch on the boundary.
Just a couple of overs earlier, du Plessis had taken a catch in the outfield but failed to release the ball before stepping on the boundary rope. It cost South Africa six runs and at the time, it seemed like Australia would cruise to a comfortable victory. But du Plessis got an opportunity to make amends and he made no mistake this time around.
Interestingly, that missed chance from the former South Africa captain was the final boundary that Australia would hit in their innings. In the last 29 deliveries, the Australian batsmen were not able to find the fence even once.
While Ngidi took three wickets for the Proteas, it must be noted that the other four bowlers - Kagiso Rabada (1/27), Anrich Nortje (1/24), Dwaine Pretorius (1/29) and Tabraiz Shamsi (0/17) - bowled excellent spells as well. The last two overs were bowled by Rabada and Nortje and they conceded just three and four runs respectively.
The visitors will rue the fact that David Warner, who was unbeaten on 67 at the end of the match, faced just six deliveries during the final three overs.
Earlier, Australia restricted South Africa to 158/4 after the hosts had gotten off to a superb start, mainly thanks to the efforts of captain Quinton de Kock (70). The left-handed batsman helped the Proteas get to 59/0 from the first six overs and, soon after, brought up his sixth T20I half-century.
After the end of the Powerplay, Australia managed to pull things back with the wickets of Reeza Hendricks (14) and du Plessis (15). Hendricks, on his return to South Africa's T20I XI, was steady at the top but failed to get the big shots away before he was caught on the boundary off the bowling of Kane Richardson. Du Plessis got a start before he was deceived by a change of pace from Pat Cummins and presented a simple catch to sweeper cover.
In the first T20I, Rassie van der Dussen opened the batting and didn't look too comfortable. It was a different story this time around. Coming into bat at number four, van der Dussen looked more at ease, scoring 37 from 26 deliveries in an innings which included two fours and as many sixes.
Despite van der Dussen's knock, the hosts were not able to kick on and take their innings into fifth gear. In the final five overs, South Africa managed just 36 runs. Richardson was the pick of the bowlers for Australia, taking two wickets and conceding just 21 runs from his four overs.
In reply, Australia got off to a solid start, racing to 54/1 from their first six overs.
With Warner and Steve Smith (29) in the middle, it looked like the visitors were in complete control of the game. The duo put on 50 runs for the second wicket while Warner went on to bring up his 16th T20I fifty. The left-handed opening batsman has been in magnificent form lately, with this being his 16th 50+ score in his last 27 innings in T20 cricket.
It required a sharp catch from du Plessis to send Smith back to the pavilion.
Alex Carey (14) got off to a start and even when he was bowled by Ngidi, Australia still seemed like huge favourites. But just like South Africa's batsmen had failed to accelerate during the death overs earlier, Australia's batsmen also struggled towards the end of the innings on a slow pitch.