Australia piled further misery on an out-of-sorts South African outfit in the three-match T20I series, clinching a 2-1 victory courtesy of two comprehensive wins in the first and final match. Apart from the scatterbrained spell during the back end of their innings in the second game, the Men in Yellow outplayed their opponents in every phase of the tussle.
Put into bat first by new skipper Quinton de Kock - much to the surprise of cricket observers around - David Warner and Aaron Finch powered the visitors to a quickfire start, accumulating 120 runs for the first wicket.
A Tabraiz Shamsi-led (4-0-25-1) attack restricted the Aussies to an extent, before a flourish in the end from Steve Smith helped them to 193/5. In reply, South Africa only managed 96, with Mitchell Starc and Ashton Agar claiming three wickets apiece.
The series loss now means the Proteas, amidst this intense metamorphosis, have gone more than a year without a bilateral series victory. They were outclassed both as a team and in individual match-ups.
On that note, we analyse the three standout players from the exuberant series between South Africa and Australia.
#3 Steve Smith
He may not have stolen the headlines, smashed a half-century or raced away to quick runs with the bat like Warner or Finch, but Smith owns a school of thought of his own. He certainly knows how to buy runs without using brawn or orthodox hitting approaches.
He came after the fall of the opening wicket in the curtain-raiser, and played a knock of 45 off 32 balls, applying a sense of calculation to aggression. He gave De Kock a lot to ponder with respect to his field placements.
Also see - India New Zealand schedule
Smith looked solid in the second T20I, only to be caught brilliantly by Faf du Plessis. He was set to anchor Australia to victory, and arguably, his wicket proved to be the turning point of the game.
What stood out the most was how he guided his side to a mammoth total after a blip in the middle overs during the final fixture. Coming in at no.5, Smith took on Anrich Nortje in the final over with Australia reeling after the initial explosive start. It may have gone unnoticed, but the run machine finished the series with an impeccable strike rate of 142.47.
#2 Aaron Finch
Finch's burgeoning rise in world cricket, especially after settling into the captain's role, has been commendable. The extra share of responsibilities are paying dividends in terms of his batting as well, as Finch has enjoyed successful tours against India, Pakistan and now, South Africa.
The explosive opener received the Man of the Series accolade for utilising his bowlers to great effect, while also taking on the hosts right from the outset. The range of stroke-making in the first game (42 off 27) was as clean as it gets. The opener carted South Africa's new ball bowlers, relying on his muscular force as well as sublime timing.
He couldn't quite translate an early onslaught after a couple of boundaries in the second game, but Finch left jaws on the floor with his swashbuckling approach in the final game alongside Warner, on a Newlands pitch where the first innings total in the shortest format amounts up to 156 on average.
The way he got into positions and pierced the gaps consistently was brilliant to say the least. Studded with six boundaries and a six, the Aussie skipper raced to a 37-ball 55. He struck them at a fearsome 146.05 in the series, taking on from where he left the last time against Pakistan.
#1 Ashton Agar
It's not everyday that your team's skipper himself asks for the Man of the Tournament trophy to be passed on to you. A zestful Finch said after being named the Player of the Series.
“He [Agar] was clearly man of the series, it is a bit embarrassing when he has had the series that he has. He was outstanding."
Rightly stated, captain. Ashton Agar was the pick of the Aussie players in the series, despite initially appearing as an understudy to Adam Zampa. But the management gave him the nod as an extra spinner and a finisher at number 7.
Chasing a formidable 197 in the inaugural match was always going to be an arduous task, but Agar toyed with the South African batsman as he returned with figures of 5-24 that included a whirlwind hat-trick. He scalped the key wickets of Du Plessis (24 off 22) and Pite van Biljon (16 off 15) - both well-set, before wreaking havoc and cleaning up the tail.
As if the 107-run defeat in the first T20I wasn't enough, the Rainbow Nation were battered to a 97-run annihilation in the final T20I; again masterminded by the young Agar.
He's got the knack of dislodging partnerships, as seen with the accuracy he put forth in his bowling this series. Rassie van der Dussen's wicket yesterday was a testament to the same, while Agar also proved he can wipe out the tail by trapping South African pacers Nortje and Kagiso Rabada. (4-0-16-3)
An devastating sucker punch in the form of a nine-ball 20 in the first game also underpinned his credentials with the bat - a contribution that piloted Australia to 196.
Honourable mention: Tabraiz Shamsi - 4-0-31-2 | 4-0-17-0 | 4-0-25-1