David Miller’s third ODI hundred helped South Africa pull off the second-highest chase of all time and seal the series against Australia with two matches to spare. Miller has chosen not to play his domestic cricket at the Durban-based Dolphins this summer but thrilled his former home crowd during the highest successful chase at Kingsmead with a heroic knock that will become the stuff of legend.
In the 31st over, with Miller on 26 and South Africa needing to score at more than eight runs an over, he tweaked a groin muscle running between the wickets. At the start of the next over, South Africa lost their fifth wicket and their last specialist batsmen when JP Duminy holed out. They were 217 for 5 and victory was 155 runs away. But Miller dug deep and along with another local lad, Andile Phehlukwayo, with whom he put on 107 off 70 balls for the seventh-wicket, took South Africa home.
Miller’s innings completely overshadowed Australia’s efforts. David Warner and Steven Smithnotched up a century each to build on an opening stand of 110 in 13 overs. Australia plundered 71 runs off the last five overs to post what they would have thought was a match-winning score. The truth is that they should have put on more. Australia went quiet in the middle period and managed just 67 runs between the 14th and 28th over, at a rate of under five.
Imran Tahir controlled the squeeze but was assisted by Dwaine Pretorius, Phehlukwayo and Duminy, who all understood that pace off the ball would be the most effective. Australia’s inexperienced attack, which has been their Achilles heel throughout the tour, could not copy that. Mitchell Marsh was their most economical bowler while the spinners, Adam Zampa and Travis Head, conceded 83 runs in 10 overs between them. That was less than Dale Steyn, who leaked 96 runs to hold the unenviable record of the most expensive effort by a South African bowler in ODIs. But Steyn won’t mind after the batsmen bludgeoned the bowlers’ blues away.
South Africa’s chase was set up by Hashim Amla, who underlined his return to the side with a quickfire 45 that included nine fours in a rare display of power-hitting from the master of finesse, and Quinton de Kock, who topped up on his Wanderers hundred with 70 off 49 balls. But they lost 3 for 39 when Faf du Plessis, de Kock and Rilee Rossouw were dismissed in the space of 39 balls and although they had kept up with the required run rate, it seemed Australia had taken control.
Duminy and Miller saw off three boundary-less overs and the match seemed to be drifting to the inevitable but then Miller changed his tone. He took 15 runs off Zampa, including a six and two fours – a flat sweep over midwicket for six and fours on either side down the ground – to hint that South Africa were still in the hunt.
Three more boundary-less overs followed and then Duminy was dismissed and responsibility fell on Miller. He survived a review in the 34th over, on 40, when Matthew Wade was convinced Miller had edged John Hastings behind but Snicko did not agree. That gave Miller the rare opportunity to spend a lengthy period of time in the middle and made full use of it, despite his injury.
Miller pulled with power and timed the ball well. Even when he lost Pretorius to a leading edge, after a stand of 48 in 6.3 overs, he found the perfect partner in Phehlukwayo, who should have been dismissed from his first ball. Chris Tremain appealed for a caught behind but umpire Adrian Holdstock did not hear the edge. Australia had used their review so could not refer it upstairs but if they had been able to, replays showed Phehlukwayo would have been out. If he felt guilty, it did not show. His response was to flick Mitchell Marsh off his pads to allow South Africa to enter the last 10 overs needing 88 runs to win.
On 71 off 54 balls, Miller was the man in charge and ushered Phehlukwayo through strike rotation while scoring boundaries seemingly at will. When Australia decided to pitch it up, Miller got underneath full deliveries and swung hard. He reached his hundred off 69 balls when he whacked a short-of-a-length delivery behind square on the leg side but the best was yet to come. As the 47th over came to an end, Miller sent Daniel Worrall on to the grandstand roof and out of the ground with the biggest of his six sixes.
South Africa needed 24 runs of the last three overs, 17 off the last two and thanks to Phehlulwayo’s ten in the penultimate over, just three off the final over. Phehlukwayo hit the winning runs, with four balls remaining, to leave Australia stunned.
After Warner’s eighth hundred – and fourth in 2016 alone, which makes this year his most successful in the format – and Smith’s shifting gears to go from 16 off 31 balls to a hundred off 104 balls, they would have thought they had done enough. But, on batsmen-friendly surfaces throughout the country, South Africa have showed that enough is a relative concept. In so doing, they won their first bilateral series against Australia since 2009 and their first ODI in five meetings against Australia at Kingsmead, dating back 2000.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent