In Australia’s innings, Damien Martyn (right) fell agonisingly short of a century as he plundered five sixes and seven fours in top scoring with 96 off 56 balls, and he was ably supported by Andrew Symonds (54 not out off 26) and captain Ricky Ponting (27). James Hopes (17) and Martyn scored very quickly in their brisk opening partnership of 57, which ended when Hopes edged to Jacques Kallis at first slip off the bowling of Shaun Pollock (1-34).
That brought Ponting to the crease and he adapted immediately to the big bash format by sailing two sixes over the ropes as he and Martyn saw Australia to 1-92 at the halfway stage of their innings. Johan Botha (1-43) claimed the prized scalp of Ponting when he holed out to Pollock deep on the leg side, however Symonds was dropped on 24 by Boeta Dippenaar.
New South Welshman Michael Clarke came out in the final over after Martyn was dismissed, and witnessed Symonds blaze 20 runs – including two sixes, off the final five balls.
The South African run chase got off to a disastrous start when Nathan Bracken (2-9) claimed the wickets of Dippenaar (1) and Herschelle Gibbs (0) within three balls in his second over. It should have been three for the over, but Martyn dropped Graeme Smith at mid-on when he was only six.
However, Smith (27) was removed soon after by Hopes (2-26) as the visitors struggled to 3-52 after 10 overs. Shaun Pollock (24) tried valiantly to put the visitors back on track, but when he was caught in the deep off Symonds (2-26) and Jacques Kallis (15) was brilliantly run out by Ponting, the result was a foregone conclusion.
South Africa required 113 runs off the last five overs with only four wickets remaining, but Victorian Mick Lewis (2-18) picked up the last two wickets in consecutive deliveries in the 19th over to seal a fantastic win.
Meanwhile, Shane Warne’s camp has targeted next summer’s one-day series against England and New Zealand for the leg spinner’s pre-World Cup comeback to one-day internationals – but only if Australia have failed to uncover a full-time spinning option beforehand.
The world’s most prolific Test bowler might be coaxed out of retirement from limited-overs internationals after the Ashes if he felt the Australians were shy of quality spinners.