Here, we take a look at five things we learned from the second ODI in Adelaide.
AUSTRALIA IS DOWN, NOT OUT
Coach Justin Langer would be wondering where that fight was in the first ODI. For a team stripped of its best batsmen and robbed of all confidence, this was a far more promising display.
In the end, the match was still nearly lost with the bat. Australia only made 231.
Although, that’s its highest total in all formats since the second innings of the first Test against Pakistan.
While the top six averaged 10.8 in the first ODI against South Africa, it was almost three-times better (29.5) in the second. And it could have been so much more. Three of Australia’s top six fell cheaply in the forties when looking dangerous.
The big scores weren’t there, and it will be hard for Australia to consistently return to winning ways without them. But what Australia did find was a way to dig deep and value its wickets, rather than throwing them away in a heap.
Australia’s top six put together four-consecutive partnerships worth 30 runs or more to beat its first match total within five wickets. A mini-collapse did occur (3-13), but the tailend was able to regain Australia’s feet courtesy of Adam Zampa’s 22 and Josh Hazlewood’s ten.
They may not sound like big totals, but it was ultimately the tailend’s willingness to fight until the end of the innings that made Australia’s total big enough. South Africa lost by just seven.
WORLD CUP SELECTIONS ARE TAKING SHAPE
A second-consecutive bilateral ODI series loss on home soil would hardly be encouraging for Australia heading into a World Cup year. But outside of the results, there are at least two other positives to come out of this series so far; Chris Lynn and Alex Carey.
Both are effectively in World Cup trials in this series. Lynn had only played one ODI last month, and Carey twice as many before he forced out Tim Paine.
The South Australian has made the most of it, providing some much-needed runs in the middle-order while showcasing his silky glovework.
Carey is Australia’s top-scorer for the series with 80 runs (at 40) off 143 balls batting at No.5.
Meanwhile, Lynn displayed some ominous form in the second ODI with his 44 off as many balls. His innings included two sixes and three fours, while four of the boundaries came off consecutive deliveries by Rabada, who is one of the world’s best fast bowlers.
David Warner and Steve Smith are widely expected to return for the World Cup, but Lynn is firming for a spot in the middle order.
AUSSIES NEED TO START CONVERTING
Justin Langer made it crystal clear when he became coach that converting starts into big scores was the easiest path to selection.
Now two matches into the Australian summer, and none of his players have even made a half-century. Worse still is that three batsmen lost their wickets in the forties on Friday.
Captain Aaron Finch was first when he made it to 41 and chopped on to the bowling of Dwaine Pretorius.
Chris Lynn looked certain for a big score when he exploded into life with four consecutive boundaries off Kagiso Rabada to move to 44. He was caught behind the next ball.
Alex Carey was the last to narrowly fall short of the milestone when he was caught behind on 47 off 72 deliveries. He faced 71 balls in the first ODI when he was dismissed for 33.
Given Australia’s recent batting struggles, having multiple batsmen make it past 40 is an improvement. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen who in Australia’s top six - if anyone - can stand up with a match-winning score.
Now two matches into the Australian summer, and none of Justin Langer’s players have made a half-century.
STARC CLOSE, BUT NOT QUITE
When Mitchell Starc bowled at first change in Perth, it was the first time since July 2015 he had not opened the bowling in an international for Australia.
He returned with the new ball in Adelaide, and delivered a wicket in his first three overs while bowling at 150.2km/h on average.
The signs were good for Starc, but the rest of his night proved that he still has a way to go before he is back to his best.
The match was in the balance - Australia needing five wickets and South Africa 90 runs for the win - when Starc was reintroduced into the attack in the 31st over.
“What Aaron Finch needs is a good spell from his premier bowler. A hostile spell,” Fox Cricket’s Shane Warne said at the time.
“We saw what (Pat) Cummins did in his spell, he was brilliant. Starc needs to do the same now because he’s 1-48. He’d be disappointed with that with the pace he’s been bowling tonight.”
Before his final spell of the night, Starc had bowled five wides and was being hit for more than seven an over.
A wicket-maiden in the match’s closing stages improved his figures, and he finished on 2-51.
Starc missed June’s ODIs against England and only returned from a lengthy lay-off against Pakistan last month. He spent much of that two-Test series in the slips battling hamstring tightness.
Starc failed to take a wicket in the first ODI against South Africa, returning figures of 0-47 from his eight overs.
On Friday, Starc was quick and at times dangerous, albeit inconsistent. He’s trending in the right direction nonetheless.
AUSSIES AND DRS ON SHAKY GROUND
Instead of reaping its benefits, Australia bungled its use of the Decision Review System this series.
That was until the game’s decisive moments, when a timely LBW review overturned the umpire’s decision to remove danger man David Miller.
Earlier, Travis Head called for what can only be described as one of the worst reviews in recent memory.
Head was trapped dead in front by Proteas pace sensation Lungi Ngidi, but after a brief discussion with Finch at the non-striker’s end, decided to go upstairs.
Ball-tracker showed the ball would have gone on to rip out his middle stump.
“Only two people in the world would review that. Aaron Finch and Travis Head’s mother because that was always hitting up halfway middle. Having burnt one in Perth, Finch himself, they weren’t taking any chances,” Fox Cricket Kerry O’Keeffe said in commentary.
The woeful review came less than a week after Finch failed to use the system at a vital moment in the first ODI.
It was in the sixth over and Australia was reeling at 2-8 after an early Dale Steyn double. Finch briefly looked at non-striker Lynn, and both men appeared to nod in agreement that the decision was correct, and chose not to send it to the DRS. Ball-tracking replays showed the ball was clearly sailing over the top of the stumps.
Australia finally used the DRS to its advantage late in the innings on Friday. The dismissal of Miller proved a pivotal moment in the morale-boosting victory.