Australia scrambled a two-wicket victory in the fifth one-day international against South Africa yesterday to move back to the top of the world rankings less than three months before the World Cup.
What looked like being a stroll to a convincing 4-1 series triumph in Sydney when Steve Smith departed for 67 with Australia 11 runs from their target of 275 was transformed into a tense finale by Robin Peterson, the South African spinner who took 4 for 32.
The hosts lost four wickets for three runs but James Faulkner hit the winning runs off the first ball of the final over.
For much of the evening, the South Africans looked like they were mentally on the plane home after posting 280 for 6.
David Warner (21) had already departed when a rain delay reduced Australia’s target to 275 in 48 overs.
Aaron Finch put on 100 with Shane Watson before falling for 76 to a brilliant piece of fielding from Faf du Plessis, who caught the ball falling over the rope but offloaded it to Rilee Roussouw.
Watson hit 82 off 93 balls from an attack lacking the rested Dale Steyn, clubbing a second huge six before holing out to deep midwicket.
Smith was bowled by Kyle Abbot off a front foot no-ball but his innings set up victory despite the late stumble.
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