Marcus Stoinis helped Australia complete a tense win over South Africa in their T20 World Cup opener, rescuing his side after they flirted with disaster in pursuit of 119.
Stoinis (24 not out) slapped two boundaries in the final over as he and Matthew Wade (15 not out) shepherded Australia home with two balls remaining, sharing an unbeaten 40-run stand in Abu Dhabi. Josh Hazlewood extended his superb Indian Premier League form into the T20 World Cup, helping restrict the Proteas to 118-9.
It would have taken a record-breaking calamity for Australia to fall short of victory; New Zealand’s inability to haul in a target of 120 against Sri Lanka in 2014 remains the lowest failed chase in this tournament’s short history.
Yet coach Justin Langer would have been forgiven for feeling apprehensive watching Aaron Finch, David Warner and Mitch Marsh depart as Australia crawled to 3-39 after eight overs. Langer’s mood would have further soured at 5-83, with the victory equation suddenly a challenging 36 runs from four overs.
Set batsmen Steve Smith (35) and Glenn Maxwell (18) had just departed in the previous two overs, giving Wade and Stoinis little time to find their feet. The power-hitting pair didn’t panic, advancing Australia to a point where they needed eight runs from the final over.
South Africa were left to lament a tough caught-and-bowled chance put down by Anrich Nortje in the penultimate over, when Stoinis whacked the ball straight back at the fast bowler.
Australia’s stop-start chase hit its first hurdle when Aaron fell for a fifth-ball duck, cursing himself after throwing the kitchen sink at an unthreatening wide ball and delivering catching practice for Kagiso Rabada at third man.
Warner, who entered this match under scrutiny after scores of nought, two, nought and one since landing in the UAE for the second phase of the IPL, crashed three boundaries off Rabada before falling victim to the same bowler for 14.
Earlier, Australia unleashed Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins in the same attack for the first time in T20 cricket. Hazlewood, fresh from a starring role in Chennai Super Kings’ fourth IPL win, set the tone when called into the attack after two overs.
He produced a two-over spell that cost just one run and featured the scalps of Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen.
The right-armer, having failed to play a single T20 international for more than four years after the previous World Cup in 2016, exhibited trademark precision coupled with IPL lessons about the ideal awkward length in these conditions. The Proteas struggled to swing momentum after Hazlewood’s dot-ball deluge despite a gutsy knock of 40 from top-scorer Aiden Markram.