ODI tri-series 5th Match: Australia book spot in the final behind half-centuries from Hughes and Marsh

Marsh was named Man of the Match for his brilliant contributions with both the bat and ball

Marsh was named Man of the Match for his brilliant contributions with both the bat and ball

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

Australia secured a spot in the final of the ODI tri-series after cruising past South Africa by 62 runs in Harare.

Opening batsman Phillip Hughes and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh were the heroes of the match for Australia as they scored 85 and 86 respectively.

However, South Africa batsman Faf du Plessis deserves a huge amount of credit as he stood tall amongst the rubble and made a career-best 126.

South Africa captain AB de Villiers would have been mulling over his decision to bowl first after Australia got off to a solid start as Hughes and Aaron Finch put together a 46-run partnership before Finch was caught by Jean Paul (JP) Duminy off the bowling of Ryan McLaren for 16.

Hughes and Steven Smith built on Australia’s strong start with an 85-run partnership, during which Hughes brought up his half-century, before Smith was caught behind off the bowling of Imran Tahir for 36.

Hughes ended up making 85 off 92 balls, which included seven boundaries and a six, as Australia went from being 131/2 to 187/5 thanks to their middle order collapsing.

Hughes struck seven boundaries and a six during his excellent knock of 85

Hughes struck seven boundaries and a six during his excellent knock of 85

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

However, Marsh and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin steered the innings back in the right direction with a 71-run partnership, during which Marsh registered his half-century.

Australia’s revival was cut short when Haddin top-edged a delivery from Morne Morkel and was caught by Aaron Phangiso for 11.

Even though Mitchell Johnson failed to have an impact with the bat, Marsh continued to lead the charge as he dispatched the South African bowling attack all over the ground to finish unbeaten on 86 off 51 balls, which included five boundaries and an impressive seven sixes.

Thanks to Hughes and Marsh, Australia finished on 282/7 off their 50 overs.

Phangiso was the pick of the bowlers with two wickets, while Morkel, McLaren, Tahir and Dale Steyn chipped in with one wicket apiece.

Chasing 283 to win, South Africa lost wickets at regular intervals and found themselves in struggling at 101/5 with Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, de Villiers, Duminy and David Miller all having been sent back to the pavilion.

The only major partnership of the South African innings was the 73 runs scored by McLaren and du Plessis.

The promising partnership was ended when McLaren was caught by Smith at midwicket off the bowling of Kane Richardson for 24.

Following McLaren’s dismissal, du Plessis started to free his arms more often since he was running out of partners.

After surging past his second ODI century, there was a chance that du Plessis could actually become South Africa’s knight in shining armour. But, that fairytale was not to be as the 30-year-old was on his way back to the pavilion after having stepped on his stumps.

Du Plessis’ career-best knock of 126 came off 109 balls and included eight boundaries and six sixes.

Du Plessis' second ODI century went in vain as his side were beaten by 62 runs

Du Plessis’ second ODI century went in vain as his side were beaten by 62 runs

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

With their last line of defence in du Plessis having been dismissed, it was only took Australia a short while to mop up the tail and book their spot in the final.

Richardson, Marsh, Johnson and Glenn Maxwell took two wickets each, while Nathan Lyon claimed one.

De Villiers was gutted to have lost the match, and said: “It looked like we didn’t compete, that’s most disappointing. Having won the toss we thought we’d put in a competitive game. It felt good during the first 40 overs, especially the spinners. But Mitchell played very well and it showed the pitch got better for batting once you spent some time there. We were found wanting in the slog overs, he deserves credit for what he pulled off there and the batsmen are getting really dangerous these days.

“We were poor in patches. I’m not worried about the middle order. Disappointed that we lost too many wickets, including mine, at the wrong time. We’ll have to ask our batsmen to bat for longer. One of the best hundreds I’ve seen in a very long time from Faf. I’m proud of the way he batted for his incredible knock and he has cemented his No. 3 spot.”

Australia stand-in captain George Bailey was ecstatic to have made the final, and said: “Very happy today. Luckily some great hitting form Marsh helped us put up a pretty competitive score. We were probably near the par total. We lost Hughes and myself at key times and Marsh got us to a big total.

“Early wickets are important on these wickets, and Maxwell got us the first one. Faf’s in unbelievable form and I was impressed with our energy. Our players did the right thing at the right times. We got to get better with adjusting to conditions and we are looking forward to the final.”

Marsh was named Man of the Match, and said: “I’m very happy and hopefully I can keep things going like this. On this wicket you need to put in some time to bat big at the end.”

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