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Australia beats South Africa by 2 wickets

November 23, 2014

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia survived a late batting collapse to return to the top of the world one-day international rankings with a two-wicket win over South Africa on Sunday in the final game of a five-match series.

The victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground concluded a 4-1 series win for Australia ahead of the World Cup it will co-host with New Zealand in less than three months.

Shane Watson’s 82 runs, 76 from opener Aaron Finch and player-of-the-series Steve Smith’s 67 appeared to set the platform for a comfortable victory as Australia looked to easily reach its rain-adjusted target of 275 in 48 overs under the Duckworth-Lewis method.

But inspired bowling by left-arm spinner Robin Peterson (4-32) saw Australia slump from 264-5 to 267-8 before James Faulkner (6) hit the winning runs at the start of the final over.

Watson hit two sixes and seven fours to show form with the test side for the opening match against India in Brisbane on Dec. 4 set to be named on Monday.

South Africa opener Quinton de Kock’s 107 and powerful lower-order batting from Farhaan Behardien (63) helped South Africa finish on 280-6.

De Kock, named player of the match, and Rilee Roussow (51) put on 107 for the second wicket after Glenn Maxwell had acting captain Hashim Amla caught behind by Matthew Wade for 18.

South Africa’s middle order struggled against some disciplined bowling, slumping from 164-2 to 206-5 with Pat Cummins taking 3-54.

South Africa captain A. B. de Villiers was rested after sustaining a rib injury while fielding during the Melbourne game on Friday won by Australia by three wickets, clinching the series.

The International Cricket Council said in a statement Sunday that Australia started the series in third position on 114 ratings points and finished on equal points with India on 117 ratings points. However, when the ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point, Australia is just 0.2 clear of India and five ratings points clear of South Africa, which dropped to third.

Ahead of the World Cup that begins in February, Australia will host England and India in a one-day tri-series tournament.

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