HARARE: AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis struck sublime centuries as South Africa chased down a massive score to beat Australia by seven wickets in the second one-day international of the triangular series yesterday.
The pair put on 206 for the third wicket, the highest South Africa partnership against Australia, as the Proteas reached their victory target of 328 with 20 balls to spare at the Harare Sports Club home of series hosts Zimbabwe.
It eclipsed the 187 put on by Herchelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith as they famously chased down 434 at The Wanderers in 2006, and was no less impressive for the skill shown by the pair as they scored all around the ground.
After South Africa won the toss and elected to bowl, Australia showed great acceleration at the end of their innings to post 327 for seven in 50 overs, with opener Aaron Finch crashing 102 from 116 balls.
But it was not enough as the Proteas recovered from a wobble at 51 for two to reach their target with some ease on a wicket that got flatter as the day wore on.
For Du Plessis it was a first ODI century as he recorded 106 from 98 balls and made a mockery of recent criticism over his slow strike-rate in limited overs cricket with a fine display of finesse and power hitting.
Captain De Villiers rode his luck after offering simple chances to Mitchell Johnson and George Bailey that were dropped when he had 78 and 85 respectively, and battled on through severe cramp to score 136 not out from 106 balls.
It is a welcome return to form for the right-hander, who had scored only 29 runs in three innings in test and ODI cricket on the tour before this match, and is the second highest score by a South African against Australia in limited overs matches.
JP Duminy scored an unbeaten 33 at better than a run-a-ball to help De Villiers steer the Proteas home.
Finch was the anchor for Australia’s innings as they again had to do without injured captain Michael Clarke, while stand-in skipper George Bailey struck a brisk 66 and Phillip Hughes a more patient 51.
The third game of the triangular series will be played on Friday when South Africa tackle Zimbabwe at the same venue.