By Joel Dubber
PERTH (Reuters) – Dale Steyn claimed two early wickets as South Africa’s pace attack combined superbly to heap more misery on Australia with a six-wicket thrashing to take a 1-0 lead in their three-match one-day international series on Sunday.
Sent in to bat, Australia succumbed to 152 all out in 38.1 overs and the victory target never looked like troubling the visitors who romped home with 20 overs to spare following a breezy 47 from opener Quinton de Kock.
“We were exceptional with the ball and in the field,” said South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis.
“It was a very good day in the office and brilliant to have Dale back. It’s good to have that X-factor in your bowling attack.”
Steyn, who suffered a career-threatening shoulder injury on his last visit to Perth two years ago, showed there was plenty of life yet in his 35-year-old body with a miserly early spell.
The paceman (2-18) found the outside edge of Travis Head and D’Arcy Short, while Lungi Ngidi (2-26) reduced the hosts to eight for three when he trapped Aaron Finch lbw for just five – a decision the Australia skipper should have reviewed.
Australia tried to steady the ship but progress was slow and they were subjected to some sarcastic applause from the by the sparse crowd of 24,342 at the end of the 12th over when Chris Lynn struck the first boundary of the innings.
Lynn’s vigil was short-lived as he was caught-behind soon afterwards for 15 off the bowling of medium-pacer Andile Phehlukwayo, who led the wicket-tally with three for 33.
The Proteas bowled with great discipline, ensuring that Australia’s inexperienced batting unit could never settle on a pitch which offered plenty of the pace and bounce that the nearby WACA traditionally offered.
Nathan Coulter-Nile’s cameo knock of 34 – including one majestic pull for six – was a rare high point for a side missing David Warner and Steve Smith because of the suspensions doled out for the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March.
De Kock and opening partner Reeza Hendricks (44) got South Africa off to a blistering start as Australia’s seam attack struggled to utilise the conditions.
Aiden Markram added 36 to the score and Marcus Stoinus (3-14) added some degree of respectability to the final margin, but at no stage were the tourists threatened as du Plessis guided his team home with 10 not out.
Australia, who will defend the 50-overs World Cup in England next year, were desperate for a morale-boosting win after a miserable nine months for the sport Down Under since the ball-tampering scandal.
“Guys probably at times are doubting themselves,” said Finch, whose side have won only two of their last 14 one-dayers.
“When South Africa bowled as well as they did today, you have to be at your absolute best.”
(Writing by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)