Mike Hussey ended a run of poor form with a match-winning innings for Australia in the first one-day international against South Africa at Kingsmead on Friday.
Hussey hit 83 not out as Australia piled up 286 for seven. South Africa were then bowled out for 145 as Australia completed a crushing 141-run win in the opening encounter of the five-match series.
The left-handed Hussey’s 79-ball innings enabled Australia to recover from two chaotic run outs that cost the wickets of two of the team’s top four batsmen.
South African captain Graeme Smith made an attacking 52 and put on 74 off 72 balls for the second wicket with Herschelle Gibbs (33). But South Africa lost their way against accurate bowling by medium-pacer James Hopes and off-spinner Nathan Hauritz.
Hopes took two for 24 and Hauritz four for 29 as South Africa were bowled out with 16.5 overs remaining.
Australia’s big win seemed a distant prospect when the tourists found themselves in trouble at 114 for four after Australian captain Ricky Ponting won the toss and made first use of a good pitch.
David Hussey and Brad Haddin were run out in the space of nine balls, on both occasions after mix-ups that ended up with the dismissed player stranded at the wrong end of the pitch.
Wicketkeeper Haddin, who opened the batting, hit an aggressive 53 off 60 balls. He and Ponting put on 77 off 81 balls for the second wicket. Then Haddin and David Hussey put on a quick 28 for the third wicket before first Hussey, then Haddin were run out.
But Mike Hussey, who scored only 132 runs at an average of 22 in the Test series and was out for a duck in the Twenty20 international, showed his best form for the first time on the tour. His innings included two sixes and six fours.
He put on 53 for the fifth wicket with Callum Ferguson (25) and 67 for the sixth wicket with Hopes, who made an impressive 38 off 35 balls. He and Hauritz (20 not out) finished the innings in style with an unbeaten 43 off 22 balls for the eighth wicket.
South Africa lost Hashim Amla in the fourth over of their innings, but Smith and Gibbs threatened to take control before Gibbs sliced a back foot shot against Hopes to backward point.
A.B. de Villiers was unlucky to be given out leg before wicket and South Africa’s innings disintegrated after Smith chipped back a return catch to Hauritz after making 52 off 56 balls.