Australian batsman D'Arcy Short, right, tosses his bat in the air after he was run out by South African wicketkeeper Quinton De Kock during the ODI cricket match between South Africa and Australia in Paarl, South Africa, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)
Australian batsman D'Arcy Short, right, tosses his bat in the air after he was run out by South African wicketkeeper Quinton De Kock during the ODI cricket match between South Africa and Australia in Paarl, South Africa, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)

Aussies hammered by South Africa in ODI

Australia jumped from the frying pan into the fire overnight as the summer of smoke followed them all the way to Paarl.

A heavily undermanned South Africa inflicted a shock defeat on Australia in the first one-day international, and during the final 15 overs, a veldt fire broke out on the Du Toitskloof mountain range directly behind the ground in view of the field.

 

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It was symbolic of a match that quickly burnt out for the Australians, who from a position of early strength, let South Africa off the hook with the ball and then fell 74 runs short in pursuit of 292.

Even before the fresh blaze broke out, smoke had engulfed the field and surrounding areas all day due to fires burning around Paarl for the past two days.

The adverse conditions made for a sense of Groundhog Day for the Australians, after a home summer when a BBL game was abandoned in Canberra and question marks lingered over the Sydney Test as bushfires ravaged the east coast of Australia.

The haze wasn't nearly as bad as conditions had been in Sydney and Canberra over December and January, but along with the heat, it made for uncomfortable conditions for the Australian quicks who had the hosts 1-0 and then 3-48, only for little-known Protea Heinrich Klaasen to turn the match with a splendid unbeaten 123.

 

 

 

 

Aside from early firepower up front from Mitchell Starc and usual tradesmanlike consistency from Pat Cummins (3-45), Australia's highly rated bowling attack with Josh Hazlewood back endured a rare lapse which allowed the Proteas off the leash.

It was always going to be a tricky chase, and Australia was under the pump from the moment openers David Warner and Aaron Finch were gone inside the first 10 overs.

Steve Smith (76) and Marnus Labuschagne (41) rebuilt with a promising partnership, but once both batting twins were dismissed, Australia's vulnerable underbelly in the middle-order was once again exposed with too much work to do on the scoreboard.

D'Arcy Short was a surprise selection over Matthew Wade at No. 7, but his 18 was in vain as Australia lost clumps of wickets to smoulder all out for just 217 in 45.1 overs, all while the fire in the background only got bigger.

 

Heinrich Klaasen of South Africa celebrates scoring his maiden century. Picture: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images via Getty Images
Heinrich Klaasen of South Africa celebrates scoring his maiden century. Picture: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images via Getty Images

The small regional ground in Paarl provided perhaps the most willing atmosphere Australia has faced in its return to South Africa for the first time since Sandpapergate.

And although Smith and Warner were targets - with a couple of men spoken to on the hill for bringing sandpaper in and wearing hard hats - most of the heat was being directed at the homecoming Labuschagne.

Born in South Africa before emigrating to Australia aged 9, Labuschagne spent the afternoon on the fence being sledged - mostly playfully - in Afrikaans.

Labuschagne said before the match he does still speak some Afrikaans at home having retained it from his younger years.

South Africa has rested several of its stars given the lack of context for a 50-over series in a year of a Twenty20 World Cup.

Australia might look to do the same over the next two matches in Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom, with an opportunity to rest the likes of Starc and Cummins and give Kane and Jhye Richardson matches.

SCORES

South Africa 7-291 (H Klaasen 123no, D Miller 64; P Cummins 3-45); Australia 217 (S Smith 76, M Labuschagne 41; L Ngidi 3-30).



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