Durban, South Africa, Oct 29: Mike Hussey kept his cool to guide Australia to a tense three-wicket win in the third and final one-day international against South Africa on Friday, clinching its first ODI series in the country in nine years with a 2-1 victory.
Chasing a modest 222-6, Hussey had to combine with the lower order at the end to drag the tourists home after late strikes by Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis gave a desperate South Africa hope.
Hussey made a match-winning 45 not out under pressure and hit the winning runs with a pull for six to guide top-ranked Australia to 227-7 and a first ODI success in South Africa since 2002.
Australia's win was built on disciplined bowling and sharp fielding, led by spinner Xavier Doherty with 2-33 and left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson with 2-37, restricting South Africa to a below-par score on an unusually slow wicket in Durban.
Opener Shane Watson hit a powerful 49 from 46 balls up front for Australia to kickstart the reply, and skipper Michael Clarke (26) and Shaun Marsh (30) made important contributions.
But it was Hussey's gritty innings, where he hit just one boundary before the series-winning stroke, that delivered a long-awaited prize for the Australians—who narrowly lost ODI contests in South Africa in 2006 and 2009.
Clarke and Marsh both fell to part-time spinner JP Duminy as South Africa defended their small total bravely in Friday's finale. Strike bowler Steyn then had Brad Haddin caught on the boundary for a quickfire 23 to leave Australia 194-6 -- and give South Africa a glimmer of hope of stealing the deciding match in a seesaw series.
Even with the loss of Johnson to an edge behind off Kallis 10 runs from victory, Hussey and teenager Pat Cummins (6 not out) -- playing his first ODI series—stayed calm to settle the three-match contest and give Australia crucial momentum heading to the two test matches.
South Africa had opted to bat first in gloomy conditions in Durban, where rain through the week provided a pitch with no pace that both teams found difficult to score freely on.
Doherty led Australia's attack with the wickets of Graeme Smith (19) and top scorer Jacques Kallis, out on 54, but the Aussie bowlers were brilliant as a unit to strangle South Africa's batsmen and put the tourists on course for their decisive win.
Captain Hashim Amla hit a flurry of early boundaries but was reined in and run out for 52 and even though the Proteas started with successive half-century partnerships, they couldn't break free.
Kallis fell in the 34th over as he tried to force the pace and Duminy (35), Faf du Plessis (21) and David Miller (11) took South Africa limping to 222.
Kallis skipped down the track to hit Doherty for a four and a six early in his knock, but South Africa's batsmen never scored freely under unrelenting pressure from Australia's bowlers.
He shared a 59-run stand with Amla, but Amla ran himself out with a poorly judged single and Kallis top-edged Doherty off a sweep shot as he desperately tried to get South Africa going and was caught by Marsh on the square leg boundary.
The home team never recovered.
South Africa only managed four more boundaries in the 16.2 overs after Kallis departed and only hit two fours in the last 10 overs as the runscoring ground to a halt.