Capetown, Oct 14 : Shane Watson made South Africa pay for a dropped catch as he set up a five-wicket win for Australia in the first Twenty20 international at Newlands on Thursday.
The opener hit a rapid 52 off 39 balls, after being dropped at slip on 2, and World Cup-winning coach Gary Kirsten made a losing start in charge of his native South Africa.
Watson's fireworks up front as he smashed six fours and two sixes saw the touring Aussies chase down South Africa's 146-7 -- despite a late wobble -- and strike first in their monthlong tour.
JP Duminy had made 67 off 53 balls to rescue South Africa's innings after a shaky start, but teenage fast bowler Pat Cummins took 3-25 on his debut for Australia -- with all three wickets in an over -- to peg the Proteas back in their final overs.
Australia made a seemingly easy run chase difficult as they lost Watson and Shaun Marsh (25) in quick succession and then David Hussey late on and the match went to the last over.
But needing six off six balls, Steven Smith lashed a square drive for four off the second delivery from Juan Theron and clipped a single through the legside for victory as Australia went to 147-5 and took the lead in the two-match T20 series.
The teams will also contest three one-day internationals and two tests in their monthlong contest.
Under stand-in captain Hashim Amla -- who was filling in for the injured AB de Villiers -- the Proteas had danger man David Warner run out for a duck and should have had Watson cheaply, too, when he edged to former skipper Graeme Smith at first slip. The chance was missed.
Watson replied with a mix of superb straight drives and brutal strokes to reach a sixth T20 half-century, the pick of which was a towering six over long-on off left-arm spinner Robin Peterson.
Morne Morkel returned to South Africa's attack to remove Watson but Marsh, Hussey and a quickfire 28 from captain Cameron White took the Aussies to the brink of victory.
Hussey sent a simple catch to Duminy at backward point in the 19th over, but Smith kept his composure to see Australia home.
Earlier, Duminy shared a 65-run partnership with David Miller (20) to lead South Africa's fightback after it was 10-2 and struggling early on a slow pitch in Cape Town.
Smith began his season with a first-over duck when he played on to a Doug Bollinger delivery and Amla was run out for 4 by a brilliant, fizzing throw from the deep by Warner.
Duminy hit six fours and three sixes to give South Africa's bowlers a defendable target and Colin Ingram made 33, but the 18-year-old Cummins put the brakes on the Proteas with three wickets in the 19th over.
He claimed the crucial scalps of Duminy and then Miller off successive balls as South Africa had sights set on a score of 150-plus. Cummins then tricked Johan Botha with a clever slower ball to have him caught in the covers off his final delivery to return impressive figures in his first international.
Bollinger took 1-23 on his international T20 debut as the touring Australians introduced four new players in the series-opening match. Seamer James Pattinson (1-32) also made his T20 debut and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade was playing his first international.
South Africa has rested leading batsman Jacques Kallis and strike bowler Dale Steyn for the T20s, while Australia's Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting will travel to South Africa with the one-day squad. AP