Ashton Agar became the second Australian bowler after Brett Lee to take a hat-trick in Twenty20 Internationals as Australia thrashed South Africa. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Australia were under the pump from the aggressive Johannesburg crowd. This was the team's first trip ever since the infamous sandpapergate scandal in 2018 that saw Steve Smith and David Warner being banned for one year. Both Smith and Warner were in the team today and they bore the brunt. Warner fell cheaply for 4 but Smith showcased his brilliance with 45. Ashton Agar came in and smashed 20 off 9 balls as Australia ended on 196/6. However, it was the start of a special night for Agar. With the ball, he achieved history by taking a hat-trick and finishing with 5/24 as Australia decimated South Africa by 107 runs in the first Twenty20 International at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Agar broke a whole slew of records with his performance. The hat-trick was achieved in his very first over after Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa had given the team the early breakthroughs. Agar struck with his fourth ball when Faf du Plessis tried to go inside-out over deep extra cover but he holed out to the fielder instead. Andile Phehlukwayo tried to shuffle across and slog to the on side but he played all around a flighted delivery and was trapped plumb in front. Agar achieved the hat-trick as Dale Steyn drove at a tossed up ball outside off and Aaron Finch at slip took a sharp catch to his left as the record was achieved.
Agar became the second Australian after Brett Lee to take a hat-trick in Twenty20 Internationals. Lee had taken the hat-trick against Bangladesh at Newlands in Cape Town. He ended up with 5/24 as he became the second Australian after James Faulkner to take a five-wicket haul in this format. Faulkner took 5/27 against Pakistan in the 2016 World T20 clash in Mohali. Agar became the fourth bowler after Umar Gul, Ahsan Malik and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to take fifers against South Africa in Twenty20 Internationals while the 107-run loss was South Africa's biggest in this format in terms of runs. The brilliance of Agar summed up a thoroughly dominant performance from Australia as they look to build momentum for the ICC World T20 in October.
South Africa chose to bowl and there was action in the first over itself. David Warner slammed a boundary off Dale Steyn but the bowler immediately took his revenge as Warner top-edged the pull to be caught at fine leg by Tabraiz Shamsi. Finch started off with two fours and Smith also got off the mark with a boundary off Lungi Ngidi. Smith and Finch struck boundaries at regular intervals, with Smith upping the ante with a big six off Kagiso Rabada. Finch tore apart from Ngidi with two fours and a six while Smith smashed three fours off Phehlukwayo as Australia ended the powerplay on 70/1.
Finch looked good for a fifty but Shamsi ended the 80-run partnership when Finch miscued the slog to deep midwicket. Matthew Wade looked good with a couple of fours but he ended up giving Dale Steyn his second wicket. Shamsi got his second wicket when Smith was stumped for 45 as South Africa fought back. Alex Carey, though, continued to be aggressive with two fours off Rabada while Mitchell Marsh got going with a big six. Marsh hit another big six but Carey fell to Phehlukwayo for 27. Marsh fell to Ngidi but Agar blasted a six and two fours in the final over as Australia ended on 196/6.
In response, Australia proceeded to slice through South Africa's top order. Quinton de Kock, the skipper, was undone by a swinging delivery from Mitchell Starc. Rassie van der Dussen miscued a drive off Pat Cummins only to be caught well by Starc. Du Plessis looked in great touch with two fours off Cummins but the bowler got his second wicket when JJ Smuts top-edged the pull and was caught at fine leg. Adam Zampa struck in his first over when David Miller was caught by Carey and then Agar proceeded to take the hat-trick and reduce South Africa to 44/7.
Had it not been for Rabada and Pite van Biljon, the Proteas would have been humiliated further. Rabada slammed a six and a four to try and make-up for his poor show with the ball. Agar picked up his fourth wicket when Pite van Biljon missed a slog but Rabada had fun with a six off Kane Richardson. Agar,though, continued his record breaking run when he sent back Ngidi for 1 and he almost had his second hat-trick when Shamsi was beaten and the ball just missed the off stump. The proceedings ended when Zampa cleaned up Rabada.
After the match, Quinton de Kock's reaction summed up the mood in the South Africa camp. "I am not quite sure what happened here. The energy was there but the skills just weren't enough. Obviously we try and pride ourselves with our fielding and we weren't at our best today. There isn't much you can do at practice, it has to be a mental thing for the boys," De Kock said. South Africa have plenty of work to do if they are to reverse the tide in the second Twenty20 International in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.