Australia’s hopes of winning this month’s Twenty20 World Cup have received a record-breaking shot of confidence in Johannesburg.
David Warner and Glenn Maxwell shared a 161-run stand at the Wanderers, the nation’s highest ever T20 partnership delivering a dramatic five-wicket win over South Africa.
The Proteas were invited to bat first by Steve Smith and hammered 7-204, their highest ever T20 total against Australia.
The epic contest ended when Mitch Marsh, facing his first ball and the last of the match, brought up the winning runs with a straight drive.
It was just the second time Australia chased down a T20 target over 160 and they snapped a five-match losing streak in the format.
“Our confidence is always going to be high (chasing any total),” Warner said on Monday morning (AEDT).
“Our first two (World Cup) games are at very small grounds in India, Dharamsala and Bangalore.
“They’re grounds that are similar to here, you’re going to have to chase and chase well.
“If you bat first 200 might not be enough. So you’ve really got to be disciplined and adapt to the conditions over there.”
Maxwell produced all manner of astonishing strokes in a career-best knock of 75 off 43 balls.
Warner, who batted at number four, was named man of the match after scoring 77 from 40 deliveries.
Only once before have two batsmen scored 75 or more in a T20 international.
It was the fourth-highest stand in a T20 international and bettered the previous Australian record, Warner’s 133-run partnership with Shane Watson against India in 2012.
“We don’t go out to set any records … obviously it’s a great achievement,” Warner said.
“The disappointing thing from our end is .. neither one of us were there at the end. That’s the negative but the plus side is we won.”
Both Maxwell and Warner fell in the space of three balls, setting the stage for a grandstand finish.
Australia needed 11 off five deliveries when Warner played on to Kagiso Rabada, who also clean bowled Aaron Finch and plucked a sensational one-handed catch to dismiss Smith.
James Faulkner did the bulk of the work before Marsh stepped up to end a scintillating match and square the three-match series.
The tourists were earlier teetering at 3-32 when Watson and Smith departed in the sixth over.
The run-rate required blew out to 13.14 an over after 13 overs but Warner and Maxwell peeled off the boundaries with remarkable poise.
“They’re aggressive players but they didn’t give us a chance,” South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis said, having dominated Australia’s attack in a knock of 79.
“I didn’t think we were too bad … there were just some really good shots.”
Legspinner Imran Tahir (0-47) and allrounder David Wiese (0-58) copped the brunt of the treatment.
Faulkner, recalled among four changes to the XI that lost by three wickets in Durban, starred with the ball in his return from a hamstring strain.
The allrounder finished with figures of 3-28 from his four overs.
The series finale begins at 3am (AEDT) on Thursday in Cape Town, while Australia’s T20 World Cup campaign starts on March 18 in India.