Marnus Labuschagne came on as a concussion substitute to steer Australia to a three-wicket win over South Africa in a one-day international on Thursday, leaving Australia’s selectors with thinking to do ahead of next month’s World Cup in India.
Labuschagne replaced Cameron Green, hit on the head by a rising delivery from Kagiso Rabada, and made a match-winning 80 not out to see Australia to its target after putting South Africa into bat and dismissing it for 222.
Australia, which secured victory with nine overs to spare, had been in serious trouble at 113-7 as it plundered early runs but also lost a steady stream of wickets.
Labuschagne was the first ever Test concussion substitute at Lord’s in the 2019 Ashes, when he replaced Steve Smith and made 59, and looked at ease when he took over from Green.
Labuschagne’s unbeaten 112-run eighth-wicket partnership with Ashton Agar guided Australia to victory in the first game of the five-match series and reminded the Australian selectors, who left him out of the World Cup squad, of his prowess.
His innings squeezed the energy out of an excited home attack, who had early inroads as it looked to defend a modest total. Agar contributed 48 not out.
Earlier, South Africa captain Temba Bavuma finished on 114 not out to become only the second South African to carry his bat through an ODI innings.
Opener Quinton de Kock and big hitters Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller all failed to get going with the destructive Miller out second ball with an edge to wicketkeeper Alex Carey off Josh Hazelwood, who took 3-41.
All-rounder Marco Jansen helped Bavuma steady the innings in 57-run sixth-wicket partnership before he was bowled by Hazelwood for 32.
The second ODI is also at Bloemfontein on Saturday.