Ashton Agar became just the second Australian to take a hat-trick in men's T20Is to guide the visitors to a 107-run win in the first T20I against South Africa at The Wanderers, Johannesburg on Friday (February 21).
After the Proteas had lost four early wickets, Agar dismissed Faf du Plessis, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dale Steyn off successive deliveries in his first over. The left-arm orthodox spinner wasn't done yet as he took two more wickets later in his spell. In fact, he was on the verge of picking up another hat-trick. On the hat-trick ball, Agar beat Tabraiz Shamsi with a superb delivery, but the ball just missed the stumps by a narrow margin.
Agar would eventually finish with bowling figures of 5/24 from four overs, the best by an Australian bowler in men’s T20Is.
Adam Zampa, the other spinner in the Australian line-up, also impressed - taking two wickets while conceding just nine runs from 2.3 overs.
Chasing a target of 197 is almost always a difficult task in T20 cricket and it's imperative that the team batting second in such a situation make the best use of the first six overs. For South Africa, though, it was far from the case here as they were reduced to 38/3 during that period.
Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc were, once again, the key bowlers for Australia during the Powerplay. Starc got the crucial wicket of the in-form Quinton de Kock in the first over of the innings, bowling the South African skipper with a peach of a delivery.
Cummins then took the wickets of Rassie van der Dussen and JJ Smuts to put the away side in complete control before Agar’s superb spell ended any hopes of a comeback from South Africa.
The home team’s total of 89 is their lowest in T20Is, with only three batsmen – du Plessis (24), Pite van Biljon (16) and Kagiso Rabada (22) – getting into double figures.
Earlier, after being put into bat, Australia had raced off to 83/1 from eight overs. With Aaron Finch and Steve Smith in the middle, it was all one-way traffic as the current and former Australian captains put on a 80-run partnership for the second wicket from just 48 deliveries. The duo had come together after Steyn took the big wicket of David Warner off just the second delivery of the match.
It was in the ninth over that Shamsi took a timely wicket for South Africa as he dismissed Finch for 42. At this stage, the hosts fought back strongly with Steyn, who was brought back into the bowling attack, sent Matthew Wade (18) back to the pavilion.
Smith was still at the crease though and was batting fluently. But some smart thinking from Shamsi outfoxed Australia's number three when he was batting on 45. The South Africa left-arm wrist-spinner saw Smith coming down the wicket and bowled a wide down the leg-side and de Kock completed the stumping.
Alex Carey (27) and Mitchell Marsh (19) put on a 50-run stand for the fifth wicket to steady Australia's innings after the rapid fall of wickets, before an unbeaten 25-run partnership off just nine deliveries between Agar (20*) and Starc (7*) took Australia to 196/6 from their 20 overs.
The two sides will now move to St. George’s Park in Port Elizabeth for the second T20I. After suffering their heaviest defeat in terms of runs and a third consecutive loss in the 20-over format, the pressure is on South Africa to stage a fight back. Australia, on the other hand, will be hoping for more of the same.