MELBOURNE, Nov 21 (AFP): Steve Smith hit a thrilling century to propel Australia to a three-wicket victory over South Africa to clinch the five-game one-day international series in Melbourne on Friday.
Man-of-the-match Smith cracked 104 off 112 balls as Australia stormed home to overhaul South Africa�s 267 for eight to win with an over to spare.
The victory wrapped up the ODI series 3-1 over the Proteas ahead of Sunday�s final game in Sydney.
The Proteas looked in control for most of Australia�s innings, reducing the home side to 98 for five in the 25th over, before Smith turned the tide with a ground record 121-run sixth-wicket stand with wicketkeeper Matt Wade.
As Smith and Wade accelerated the scoring rate the South African bowling and fielding became ragged under pressure and in the end the Australians were an irresistible force surging to victory.
When Wade was brilliantly caught in the outfield by a diving Ryan McLaren for 52 off 94 balls, James Faulkner came in and took up where Wade left off slamming an unbeaten 34 off 31 balls with six fours.
Smith has proved the thorn for the Proteas in this series, hitting an unbeaten 73 to help the Australians win in the third ODI in Canberra on Wednesday.
He was annoyed to be bowled by Robin Peterson as he attempted to go after the winning run, but the damage had been done for South Africa. �We needed a partnership in the middle of the innings and Wadey and myself have managed to put on 100 and it really helped the side in the end,� Smith said.
�And Faulkner came out and did what he has done so well over the last year and finish off the innings. It�s another series win for us, which is great.�
The match finished on a video umpire�s adjudication after Pat Cummins appeared to be caught by a diving David Miller, only for the decision to be reversed when replays showed the ball had bounced before Miller�s hands.
That proved to be the winning run as Cummins and Faulkner crossed for the Australians to celebrate a psychological series victory ahead of next year�s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Compounding South Africa�s woes was an apparent rib injury for skipper AB de Villiers, who suffered the injury while fielding and looked in discomfort.
De Villiers hit a masterful 91 before South Africa�s innings stalled and finished at 267 for eight batting first after winning the toss.
International one-day cricket�s leading batsman was in typical free-flowing form, hitting six fours in his 88-ball knock. But after de Villiers departed in the 43rd over with the score at 230 for five, the South Africans only mustered another 37 runs in the remaining seven overs.
De Villiers looked set for his 19th ODI century before paceman Cummins lured him into a hurried shot with a slower, wider delivery which he top-edged and was caught by Smith.
With him went the South Africans� momentum as bowlers Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Faulkner strangled their scoring and restricted the Proteas� total.
Miller was next best with 45 off 61 balls with three boundaries, before he fell to Faulkner, and Faf du Plessis made 28 from 37 balls.
Cummins finished with two for 61 off 10 overs and medium-pacer Faulkner, bowling slower balls out of the back of his hand, grabbed two for 45.
South Africa: Q de Kock c and b Maxwell 17, H Amla c Cummins b Coulter-Nile 18, F du Plessis c Wade b Cummins 28, AB de Villiers c Smith b Cummins 91, D Miller c Smith b Faulkner 45, F Behardien run out (Warner) 22, R McLaren c Wade b Starc 13, R Peterson b Faulkner 11, W Parnell not out 3, D Steyn not out 0. Extras: (B-5, LB-5, W-9) 19. Total: (For 8 wkts; 50 overs) 267. Fall of wickets: 1-28, 2-70, 3-77, 4-199, 5-230, 6-246, 7-261, 8-262. Bowling: Starc 10-0-40-1, Coulter-Nile 3-0-16-1, Cummins 10-0-61-2, Maxwell 9-0-43-1, Watson 5-0-25-0, Faulkner 10-0-45-2, Smith 3-0-27-0.
Australia: Finch a du Plessis b Parnell 22, Warner lbw b Abbott 4, Watson c de Kock b McLaren 19, Smith b Peterson 104, Bailey c de Kock b Steyn 16, Maxwell c Amla b Steyn 2, Wade c McLaren b Parnell 52, Faulkner not out 34, Cummins not out 1. Extras: (B5, LB2, W6, NB1) 14. Total: (7 wickets; 49 overs) 268. Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-43, 3-48, 4-86, 5-98, 6-219, 7-267. Bowling: Steyn 9-0-47-2, Abbott 10-0-43-1, McLaren 10-0-62-1, Parnell 9-0-52-2, Peterson 8-0-44-1), Behardien 3-0-13-0.