JJ Smuts starred with both bat and ball, spoiling Marnus Labuschagne's "homecoming", as South Africa hammered Australia by six wickets in the third and final ODI and completed a 3-0 whitewash at Senwes Park on Saturday (March 7). After picking up two wickets in the first innings, Smuts smacked a 98-ball 84 to script a perfect run chase for the hosts.
Asked to bat, Australia lost their top three early before Labuschagne took matters into his own hands in front of all his friends and family. Born in Klerksdorp, just down the road from Potchefstroom, he crafted a run-a-ball 108 - studded with eight fours - to propel Australia to 254 for 7 in 50 overs. The middle-order batsman added over 50 runs with D'Arcy Short, Mitchell Marsh and Jhye Richardson to make up for Australia's top-order failure. In reply, every South African batsman contributed, with Smuts, Kyle Verreynne (50) and Heinrich Klaasen (68*) hitting half-centuries. The home team chased down the total in 45.3 overs.
With Lungi Ngidi rested, it was up to Anrich Nortje to lead South Africa's bowling attack. The right-arm paceman used whatever movement was on offer and gave Australia an early setback. David Warner (4), who got starts in the last two ODIs, got one on a good length and the ball bounced a bit more and also moved away late to take an outside edge off Warner's willow. Both Nortje and Lutho Sipamla, playing his first match of the series, bowled with good control in the first powerplay and hardly gave nothing away to the Australian batsmen.
Coming in at No. 3, Steve Smith looked in good touch and added 31 runs with Aaron Finch for the second wicket. Just when it looked like the two were getting a move on, Phehlukwayo pinned Smith in front of the leg-stump for 20 as the right-hander failed to make any connection while trying to flick it through the on-side. Having lost two of their batting mainstays, Australia needed Finch to carry on but debutant Daryn Dupavillon broke the back of the Australian batting line-up by having their captain caught at extra cover for 22.
The surface wasn't offering much turn and the onus was now on Labuschagne and Short to take Australia's innings forward. Keshav Maharaj was economical but couldn't pick up wickets as the two batsmen started to rebuild, focusing more on ones and twos. The duo added 81 runs for the fourth wicket and in the process, Labuschagne also brought up his well-crafted fifty. The two were slowly starting to build pressure on South Africa before the part-time left-arm spinner Smuts broke the partnership. Short, who was batting on 36, chipped one straight to Heinrich Klaasen at mid-wicket against the run of play and lost a golden opportunity of scoring big.
Smuts made up for Tabraiz Shamsi's absence and played his role to perfection. Meanwhile, Labuschagne found an able ally in Marsh as the all-rounder batted aggressively and pounced on every bad delivery. Marsh smashed two fours and a six before falling victim to David Miller's brilliant run-out. The right-handed batsman was on 32 when Labuschagne knocked one towards short cover where Miller dived to his left and despite being off-balance, he back-flipped the ball powerfully at the wicketkeeper's end, finding Marsh way short of the crease. Before the dust had settled, Smuts knocked over Alex Carey in the same over for a duck.
Despite wickets falling at the other end, Labuschagne kept the fight going and single-handedly propelled Australia to a competitive total. With just five overs remaining, the right-hander started playing his shots and smoked Sipamla and Phehlukwayo for five boundaries in the space of two overs, before completing his century in the 48th over. Labuschagne was finally dismissed in the final over, but only after he helped Australia slam 53 runs in the last five overs. Jhye too played his part, hitting an unbeaten 20-ball 24.
In response, Quinton de Kock and Janneman Malan gave South Africa a rapid start. The two smashed the Australian bowlers all around the park, adding 47 runs in eight overs. De Kock in particular looked in fantastic touch enjoying Mitchell Starc's absence, including a scoop off Kane Richardson for a maximum. With Starc, Pat Cummins and Ashton Agar rested, Australia went with a new-look pace attack.
The breakthrough finally came in the ninth over when de Kock dragged Hazlewood’s length delivery back onto the stumps. After dismissing de Kock for 26 with an inswinger, Hazlewood got few deliveries to move away in his next over and successfully managed to induce an edge off Malan’s willow. Having hit a century in the second ODI, Malan this time had to go back after scoring 23.
The run-rate was never going to be an issue for the home team and both Smuts and Verreynne batted smartly at the start before shifting gears. Finch tried all his options but couldn’t break the partnership. Verreynne in particular was ruthless with his pull shots, smoking both Richardsons for three sixes before bringing up his maiden ODI fifty in 48 deliveries. Apart from Hazlewood, every single Australian bowler struggled. Verreynne, 22, however couldn't carry on and was caught at deep mid-wicket off Adam Zampa who broke the 96-run stand.
However, there was no relief for the Australian bowlers as Smuts was joined by in-form Klaasen. Smuts was simply phenomenal through the leg-side and treated every leg-stump delivery with ruthless aggression. The duo didn't allow Australia to make a comeback and put on 79 for the fourth wicket. Smuts, who smashed 12 fours, departed closer to the target but Klaasen finished the game in style by smoking Marsh for 4, 4 and 6.