A stunning display of batsmanship from all-rounder Albie Morkel has led South Africa to a three-wicket victory over Australia in the opening One-Day International at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Morkel blasted an unbeaten 40 from 18 deliveries, as the Proteas successfully ran down Australia's imposing total of 8-271 with three balls to spare.
South Africa were seemingly out of the contest when Morkel was joined at the crease by captain Johan Botha, needing 51 to win from 38 deliveries, however his brilliant cameo turned the game decisively in favour of the visitors.
The pair added an incredible 43 runs from the 46th to the 48th over, leaving the Australian pace trio of Shaun Tait, Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Bracken in their wake, and, in doing so, giving their side a memorable victory.
Indeed, South Africa looked to have had the match under control at 3-213 in the 41st over. A 143-run partnership between JP Duminy (71) and Neil McKenzie (63) had given the Proteas the impetus in the fifty-over a side affair. However the Aussies swung momentum dramatically back in their own direction, striking in four consecutive overs, and leaving South Africa reeling at 7-221.
Only Morkel's heroics could save the Proteas; his magnificent knock digging his side out of the mire, and ultimately bringing a splendid victory. Shaun Tait (2-43 off 10) was the best of the Australian bowlers, but his efforts were not enough to contain the onslaught from South Africa's number eight batsman.
Earlier, Shaun Marsh (79), Dave Hussey (52) and Ricky Ponting (46) were the mainstays of the Australian innings. Hussey, Cameron White (21) and Brad Haddin (19) were the main accumulators in Australia's sensational final 10 overs in which they notched up 88 runs.
Jacques Kallis led from the front with the ball for the away side, his 0-35 from ten overs easily the match's most economical spell. Morkel, brother Morne, and Botha each collected two wickets. But this match will linger long in the memory predominantly for Albie's unbelievable feats with the bat, for which he deservedly received the man-of-the-match award.
The two teams now head to Hobart ahead of Sunday's second installment of the five match series, a day game at the picturesque Bellerive Oval.