Colombo: Shane Watson’s brutal display of power-hitting ensured Australia an eight wicket win over South Africa here Sunday and brought them closer to a semi-final spot in the World Twenty20 tournament.
Watson (70 off 47 balls) carried on with the devastating form he showed against India and with help of the experienced Michael Hussey (45 not out), got the team home in 17.4 overs. Earlier, South Africa recovered to make 146 for five after Australia opted to chase in a crucial Super Eight contest at the Premadasa Stadium.
Australia are on the brink of making the last four after two victories in as many matches while South Africa suffered their second successive loss.
Watson produced another scorcher after the 42-ball 72 against the Indians Friday.
South African speedsters Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were on top of Watson and his opening partner David Warner (5) at the start of the chase. But once the star all-rounder cut loose, he was unstoppable.
Watson smashed eight fours and two massive sixes in his breathtaking knock. He got to his fifty by pulling one off Wayne Parnell over deep square leg in the 10th over. Three balls later, Parnell dropped Watson while fielding for Robin Peterson at deep square leg.
The 31-year-old was finally caught in the deep off Peterson with Australia needing 38 off the last six overs.
Up till now a spectator to the Watson show, Hussey took on the bowlers and got his side over the line alongside Cameron White (21 not out).
Earlier, Australia meant business after sending South Africa in.
Xavier Doherty (3/20), playing his first game of the tournament, took no time in making his presence felt. He bowled a clueless Richard Levi (0) in the match’s opening over before dismissing Jacques Kallis (6) with a typical left-arm spinner delivery. The ball turned enough to induce a slight edge off Kallis’ bat which was taken by the wicket-keeper, leaving South Africa at eight for two in the third over.
Things got worse for South Africa as they were reeling at 86 for five by the 15th over when captain de Villers (21) departed after slapping one straight to his counterpart George Bailey at extra cover.
It was only in the last five overs that the Proteas got a move-on. Peterson (32 n.o.) was at his innovative best, entertaining the crowd with a couple of reverse sweeps. Farhaan Behardien (31 n.o.) struggled to use the long handle but did well to support Peterson.
J.P. Duminy (30) was another one who made a vital contribution.