Durban, April 04: Captain Ricky Ponting hailed the return to form of Mike Hussey as Australia gained a crushing 141-run win over South Africa in the first One-Day International at Kingsmead on Friday.
Hussey hit 83 not out as Australia piled up 286 for seven. South Africa were bowled out for 145 in the opening encounter of a five-match series.
“It’s been a difficult few months for him,” Ponting said of Hussey, who scored only 132 runs at an average of 22 in a three-match Test series and was out for a duck in a Twenty20 international.
Ponting said Hussey’s attitude had never wavered despite the worrying loss of form.
“You wouldn’t know with him. He just continues to work hard, enjoy his cricket and enjoy the hard work. It was great to see him get those runs on the board again.
“When he went out to bat it was a really crucial moment in the game. For him to get 80-odd will hopefully give him confidence for the rest of the summer.”
The left-handed Hussey’s 79-ball innings enabled Australia to recover from two chaotic run-outs which cost the wickets of two of the team’s top four batsmen.
South African captain Graeme Smith made an attacking 52 and put on 74 off 72 balls for the second wicket with Herschelle Gibbs (33).
But the South Africans lost their way against accurate bowling by medium-pacer James Hopes and off-spinner Nathan Hauritz.
Hopes took two for 24 and Hauritz four for 29 as South Africa were bowled out with 16.5 overs remaining.
“We just made an over-par score on that wicket,” said Ponting. “It was going to be a competitive score but the guys bowled exceptionally well.
“Hauritz was terrific and Hopes was very, very good and Mitchell (Johnson) was good as well.”
Johnson took two for 24, twice taking wickets in the first over of a spell.
“We just didn’t play well enough,” admitted Smith who was making his return to the team after having his hand broken by a Johnson delivery here in the second Test a month ago.
“Australia were better in all departments.”
Australia’s big win seemed a distant prospect when the tourists found themselves in trouble at 114 for four after Ponting won the toss and made first use of a good pitch.
David Hussey and Brad Haddin were run out in the space of nine balls, on both occasions after mix-ups which saw the dismissed player stranded at the wrong end of the pitch.
Wicketkeeper Haddin, who opened the batting, hit an aggressive 53 off 60 balls.
He and Ponting put on 77 off 81 balls for the second wicket. Then Haddin and David Hussey put on a quick 28 for the third wicket before first Hussey, then Haddin were run out.
But Mike Hussey showed his best form for the first time on the tour with an innings which included two sixes and six fours.
He put on 53 for the fifth wicket with Callum Ferguson (25) and 67 for the sixth wicket with Hopes, who made an impressive 38 off 35 overs. He and Hauritz (20 not out) finished the innings in style with an unbeaten 43 off 22 balls for the eighth wicket.
South Africa lost Hashim Amla in the fourth over of their innings but Smith and Gibbs threatened to take control before Gibbs sliced a back foot shot against Hopes to backward point.
AB de Villiers was unlucky to be given out leg before wicket and South Africa’s innings disintegrated after Smith chipped back a return catch to Hauritz after making 52 off 56 balls.