AB de Villiers smashed a match-winning fifty as Royal Challengers Bangalore claimed a brilliant seven-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League.

South African great De Villiers made it three unbeaten half centuries for the tournament, lofting Jofra Archer over deep midwicket for his sixth maximum to make it 55 off 22 deliveries and seal the points with two balls to spare.

Rajasthan set Bangalore 177-6, as Steve Smith returned to form with an excellent 57 from 36 deliveries, but they have now lost four of their past five matches.

The Royal Challengers are third with six wins from nine outings and their other standout performer was Chris Morris, whose 4-24 include the scalps of Smith, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.

Bangalore lost Aaron Finch for 14 after a couple of sixes early in the run chase as the Australia opener sliced a slog sweep off Shreyas Gopal high into the air.

Skipper Virat Kohli (43) and Devdutt Padikkal combined in an assured stand of 79 for the second wicket but departed in consecutive balls when trying to force the pace, leaving their side 102-3 in the 14th over.

Enter De Villiers, who took the attack back to Rajasthan with able support from Gurkeerat Singh (19 not out). He made his move decisively at the start of the penultimate over, when he bludgeoned Jaydev Unadkat for three consecutive sixes.

Earlier, a reshuffled Rajasthan order paid dividends for their captain Smith, who dropped down to four after a succession of single-figure scores.

Robin Uthappa's breezy 41 accounted for the bulk of a half-century opening stand with Stokes (15) but they were 69-3 when Sanju Samson fell to Yuzvendra Chahal.

Smith rebuilt alongside Buttler (25) and remained until the final over, when Morris added the Australia star and Archer to his haul. It might have been enough, but for the inimitable De Villiers.

De Villiers turns in another masterclass

"I'm very, very nervous and erratic [in a run chase] and I get very stressed like any player," De Villiers said when being presented with the man-of-the-match award. Spare a thought for Unadkat, in that case. The left-armer might feel he was hung out to dry by Smith handing him the 19th over. His first delivery was crashed over midwicket, with a slower ball dispatched beyond wide long-on next ball.

A dismissive swipe over square leg followed before a single from an attempted yorker ended the assault. De Villiers and Gurkeerat still needed 11 from Archer's final over, but the momentum had unquestionably shifted.

Buttler loses out in Rajasthan reshuffle

While a move down the order worked for Smith, the same could not be said for England big-hitter Buttler. Demoted from opening alongside Stokes, he scored an unusually circumspect 24 off 25 deliveries before holing out to Morris.

Early Indian Premier League leaders Rajasthan Royals suffered a 37-run defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders in Dubai on Wednesday despite Tom Curran's late half-century.

The Royals had won their opening two matches of the competition but, just three days on from the highest successful run chase in IPL history against Kings XI Punjab, turned in a miserable display with the bat.

Rajasthan, set 175 to win, tallied 12 runs off their first over - led by Jos Buttler (21) - but the signs of their subsequent struggles were there as Steve Smith came unstuck at the hand of international team-mate Pat Cummins (1-13) in the second.

Another big dismissal followed in the fifth over as Sanju Samson dragged Shivam Mavi (2-20) to midwicket and Buttler's departure to the same man prompted a flurry with two more wickets supplied by Kamlesh Nagarkoti (2-13) in the eighth over.

Rahul Tewatia had improbably inspired the dramatic victory over Kings XI last time out and similar heroics were required as he arrived at the crease.

There was a solitary six, but Tewatia (14) was beaten by Varun Chakravarthy (2-25), who found the middle stump, as the odds increasingly stacked against the Royals.

Curran made a fine 54 off 36, yet his side fell well short of the Knight Riders' 174-6, a target which might have been even greater but for Jofra Archer's (2-18) return to form with the ball.

The Knight Riders' top score came from opener Shubman Gill (47), who hit five fours and a maximum before handing Archer a simple catch off his own bowling.

Andre Russell sought to pick up the mantle and accelerated Kolkata's scoring with 16 runs off the 13th over, but he too departed as he picked out Jaydev Unadkat at the boundary attempting his fourth six of the innings.

It was left to Eoin Morgan to boost the total as he ended unbeaten on 34, surviving a scare off more dangerous Archer bowling, although it ultimately would have mattered little.
 

OUTSTANDING ARCHER

The Royals' star bowler was a dismal 0-46 in their dramatic victory on Sunday, but he was in the mood this time. A rapid first over saw just one run and set the tone, before he crucially caught Gill off his own bowling at the start of his next stint.

Archer's pace slowed Russell briefly and then saw Dinesh Karthik edge behind. He might have added the scalp of Morgan, too, had Tom Curran not dropped his England captain over the boundary.

"It's a different wicket here," Archer explained at the end of the innings. "You can hit length a bit more confidently."

KKR KIDS DO DAMAGE

Cummins made a superb start against Smith, another of the world's best bowlers following opponent Archer's lead, but it was the Knight Riders' younger stars who really sparkled.

Mavi and Nagarkoti are 21 and 20 respectively but both have missed long stretches in recent years due to back injuries, with the younger man not making his IPL debut until this season.

They shone against more experienced players on Wednesday, though, with Mavi crucially getting Samson and Buttler as the Royals started to recover from Smith's wicket.

Rajasthan Royals pulled off the highest run chase in the history of the Indian Premier League against Kings XI Punjab, overshadowing a superb century from Mayank Agarwal.

Steve Smith, Sanju Samson and Rahul Tewatia all made key contributions with the bat as the Royals pulled off a stunning four-wicket triumph to make it two from two in the early stages of the 2020 season. 

Agarwal shared in an opening stand worth 183 with in-form skipper KL Rahul as he made a magnificent 106, helping Kings XI post 223-2 after being put into bat.

Nicholas Pooran produced a late cameo, making 25 from just eight deliveries, though his most notable contribution came later in the field with a gravity-defying stop in the deep.

Rajasthan lost Jos Buttler early in their reply, yet captain Smith made 50 in a hurry to make sure his team remained up with the required rate. 

Samson top scored with 85 from just 42 deliveries but, after he became the first of three wickets for seamer Mohammed Shami, Tewatia took over. 

The left-hander vindicated his unexpected promotion up the order, overcoming a sluggish start to blast his team towards their target. Sheldon Cottrell suffered the most, taken for five sixes in an over that cost 30. 

Jofra Archer smashed two maximums to finish 13 not out before fellow England international Tom Curran delivered the winning blow, sending his first ball to the boundary midway through the last over.

 

OPENERS CAUSE ROYAL ISSUES

Having made 132 not out against Bangalore Royal Challengers last time, right-hander Rahul was again in the runs for Kings XI.

The India batsman made 69 from 54 deliveries but played second fiddle to opening partner Agarwal, who hit seven sixes and 10 fours to reach three figures from just 49 deliveries.

Their partnership is the third highest for the first wicket in the competition, while this was Agarwal's maiden IPL century.

POORAN TAKES OFF

Samson appeared to have hit Murugan Ashwin for six when he launched the spinner deep to midwicket in the eighth over of the Royals' innings.

However, Pooran had other ideas. Leaping backwards beyond the boundary, he managed to catch the ball before flicking it back into play prior to him hitting the ground, timing the release to perfection.

COTTRELL GOES THE DISTANCE

Tewatia, whose solitary over with the ball went for 19 runs, had 17 to his name from 23 balls at one stage. Then, with 51 required from the final three overs, everything changed - most notably his strike-rate.

He certainly took a liking to Cottrell's bowling, turning what appeared to be a tall order into a straightforward equation.

A solitary dot ball spared the left-armer completing the unwanted full set of sixes in the over, but the sudden onslaught turned the game at a crucial stage. 

Steve Smith claimed he would miss the familiar crowd barracking as Australia departed for a behind-closed-doors series against England.

English crowds targeted Smith during last year's Cricket World Cup and Ashes series, picking out Australia's star batsman after his role in the 2018 ball-tampering scandal that saw him stripped of the captaincy.

Any Australia side touring England will usually have to brace themselves for ribbing and heckles from home supporters, but this year it is a very different story due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With sport stadiums largely shut to spectators, Australia and England will compete in three Twenty20 matches and three ODIs in front of a smattering of officials, venue staff and media.

Smith knows it will feel different to usual matches between the great rivals and he is trying to not let that factor dampen his enthusiasm.

The way Smith sees it, he can still get under the skin of English supporters, even if he might encounter very few of them while in the country.

Speaking on Sunday, Smith said: "I do like batting there. Unfortunately there's no crowd there to egg me on and give me a bit more motivation.

"But there's going to be plenty of eyes on the TV watching. It's going to be great to be back out there playing.

"I've watched a bit of the Test matches so far that England have played and they've been playing some pretty good cricket, and we obviously know their white-ball cricket over the last few years has been exceptional.

"It's going to be a good series and I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to getting back into it."

Smith was speaking as he left Sydney Airport, en route to joining the rest of his international colleagues in Perth for the long-haul flight to England.

The 21-player group then departed together, ahead of the T20 games which will all be played at Southampton's Rose Bowl from September 4, and the ODI series which will be contested at Old Trafford, Manchester, from September 11. 

During the 2019 Ashes, Smith thrived in English conditions, making 774 runs in the four Tests he played.

As Australia get back to playing cricket for the first time since March, the 31-year-old said: "Obviously it's going to be a little different to what we're used to, being in a bubble and playing with no crowds.

"We've got to start at some point and this is our starting point."

When Pakistan were previously in England for a Test series, Babar Azam saw a promising start cut short by a bad break.  

The batsman made a half-century in the opening game at Lord’s in May 2018, but his involvement in the series was painfully cut short when struck on the left arm by a Ben Stokes short ball.  

Forced to retire hurt with 68 to his name, Babar did not appear again during the tour. A fracture ended his contribution as the tourists triumphed at the home of cricket, while he had to watch on as his side were crushed in the second Test at Headingley. 

At that stage of his career, Babar was viewed as a limited-overs specialist still making his way in the Test arena. With an average under 25 prior to playing England, he was – at the age of 23 – a player with obvious potential working out how to play the game of patience.

Just over two years on, he returns to England having enhanced his reputation to such an extent that the so-called 'Fab Four' - Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson - have company. It is unclear who identifies as the cricketing versions of Paul, John, Ringo and George, but Babar is not like the fifth Beatle – his identity is clear.

Start a discussion with cricket fans over who should be considered the lead act in the group and you are opening a cricketing can of worms. It is a topic that, understandably, stirs up national pride, but also heated discussions about the weight of importance given to each format. 

What is not up for debate, however, is that Babar deserves to be in the conversation. His white-ball numbers are outstanding – he averages over 50 in Twenty20 and one-dayers for Pakistan – yet his Test statistics in recent times provide additional evidence for those keen to argue his case.  

Indeed, his average of 75.9 across his 12 Test knocks since the start of 2019 is the best rate of any batsman to have 10 or more innings during that period. Better than Kohli, despite the India captain piling on the runs at home against South Africa, including a career-best 254 not out. Better even than Smith, whose Ashes heroics last year were so crucial in helping Australia retain the urn on English soil.  

He also sits above the same pairing when it comes to contributing for his team, providing an astonishing 22 per cent of Pakistan’s total Test runs over the period. There is clearly substance to the style now, a determined streak to go with the eye-catching technique.  

Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain, tipped Babar to become one of the best in the world at the start of the year; he was a little late to get on board a bandwagon that now offers standing room only. 

"I think he is right up there already," Azhar Ali, Pakistan's Test skipper, said on the eve of the series opener with England at Old Trafford. 

"His performances have improved massively in Test matches over the last year or so. Firstly, he was performing really well in white-ball cricket and people thought he was only a white-ball player, but he took on that challenge and played with a lot of freedom and flair.” 

Babar's career totals do not stand up to the sheer volume scored by Kohli, Root, Smith and Williamson - at least not yet. Still, since 2018, he sits above the quartet in terms of Test average (65.5) and strike-rate (63.2 runs per 100 deliveries).

That stretch includes a memorable maiden hundred on home soil. While rain ruined the spectacle of the first Test played in Pakistan for over a decade, Babar brightened up the final day against Sri Lanka in Rawalpindi with an unbeaten 102 that delighted the crowd who had patiently waited to see their team return.  

Scores of 60 not out, 100 and 143 followed in the remainder of a truncated series, all from a player who did not reach three figures until his 17th Test. 

Prior to that breakthrough innings against New Zealand in November 2018, Babar had managed an unspectacular 822 runs at 30.4. Since then, though, there have been four more three-figure scores in 10 games, plus a 97 in a losing cause against Australia in Adelaide when no colleagues were willing to stick around in support. 

Pakistan are likely to lean on him heavily again in England, particularly as they come up against a team brimming with fast-bowling options and fresh off a 2-1 series victory over West Indies. 

Babar's development - including a highly productive Cricket World Cup campaign last year on English soil, as well as finishing top run-scorer in the T20 Blast while playing for Somerset - suggests he will relish the challenge.

The head-to-head battle with Root will be one of the main storylines, too. England's captain has much on his plate in the coming weeks, including fathoming out a way to nullify the brilliant Babar, who has stylishly climbed his way into the top tier of international batsmen.

Steve Smith revealed he barely touched a cricket bat during lockdown, instead using the enforced break due to the coronavirus pandemic to switch off.

Cricket in Australia is preparing to kick into gear, having been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Former Australia captain Smith returned to training with New South Wales on Monday, along with international team-mates Mitchell Starc and David Warner.

After a gruelling year on the international and domestic fronts, Smith used the time off to focus on his fitness instead of his technique.

"I'm probably in the best shape I've been in in years, doing lots of running, lots of gym stuff at home. It's been a couple of months of good hard work," Smith said.

"I haven't touched a bat really, couple of little drills at home but that's about it. I've tried to switch off from it a little bit, which I don't do very often, but focusing on myself getting fit and strong and refreshing mentally, and when we get our chance to play again I'll be good to go.

"There are no nets or anything, so I've just been trying to switch off, I've done masterclasses at home that I've shared with a few people on Instagram and things like that.

"But other than that, I really haven't picked up my cricket bats. So it's been a bit different but I'm sure in the long run it's probably a good thing just to freshen up after what was a pretty long year, year-and-a-half."

The ICC look set to introduce a new rule to ban the use of spit to shine the ball once cricket returns, with bowlers often using saliva to assist with finding swing.

Smith suggested the rule change could hand the batting side an unfair advantage and hopes any changes to regulations maintain an even contest.

"I've always been one to want a fair contest between bat and ball, even as a batter, so if that's taken away I don't think that's great," he said. 

"Whether they can find different ways to do certain things. It'll be hard, I actually spit on my hands most balls, that's how I get grip and stuff.

"It might take some adjusting to get used to certain things like that, that's something for the ICC to figure out what they want to do going forward and making new regulations.

"We'll see where it all lands, everything is up in the air at the moment."

Steve Smith believes playing in the Indian Premier League later this year would be an enjoyable alternative option if the T20 World Cup is postponed.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) last week stated it is still planning for the World Cup to start in Australia on October 18, but other options are being explored due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It has been reported that the competition will be put back to next year, with the IPL - which could not get under way as scheduled in March - taking place instead of the global event.

Smith, who returned to training with New South Wales on Monday, would prefer to play in a World Cup, but the former Australia captain would also relish the opportunity to lead the Rajasthan Royals later this year. 

The top-ranked Test batsman in the world said: "I think when you're playing for your country at a World Cup, that's the pinnacle for one-day or T20 cricket, so of course I'd prefer to play in that.

"But if that doesn't happen and the IPL's there, and they postpone [the T20 World Cup], then so be it. IPL's also a terrific tournament as a domestic tournament. 

"That's out of everyone's control at the moment, players are just doing what we're told and going where we need to go and playing whatever's on at that stage.

"I guess there'll be some more news about it soon, probably some decisions to be made soon, so I'm sure we'll all find out and know where we're going to be.

"I personally haven't really thought about it, I think it'd just be going off the advice of the professionals and the governments and essentially doing what we're told.

"If that happens then great, if not then there's just so much going on in the world right now that cricket kind of seems a little bit irrelevant. So, we'll get back when we're told to and until then it's sit tight, get fit and strong and freshen up mentally."

Cricket Australia are also considering a request from the England and Wales Cricket Board to tour England for a limited-overs series in September, two months later than planned.

Widely regarded as the best Australian batsman since Don Bradman, Steven Smith began his Test career as a leg spinner who batted at number 8.

However, in a matter of five years, he was the number-one batsman in the world.

Smith made his Test debut at Lords in July 2010, playing both Tests against Pakistan.

In the second Test, he was called to bowl only 10 overs and took no wickets. However, batting with the tail, he scored 77, helping Australia to set a competitive target after having been bowled out for 88 in the first innings.

In the 2010–11 Australian summer, Smith played three Tests in the 2010–11 Ashes series, this time playing more as a batsman, taking the number six spot in the order. His performances were solid during the series, getting a number of starts and scoring two half-centuries.

Since then he has rapidly scored more than 7000 Test runs including 26 centuries and now boasts a 62 average, the second-highest Test average of all time.

 

Career Statistics

Full name: Steven Peter Devereux Smith

Born: June 2, 1989, Sydney, New South Wales

Playing role: Middle-order batsman

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Bowling style: Right-arm leg spin

 

Test Career: Australia (2010-Present)

Mat        Inns        NO     Runs      HS     Ave        BF        SR        100s        50s

73           131         16      7227      239    62.84     13068    55.30     26           29 

     

Career highlights

  • Only player to win ICC Test Player of the Year more than once
  • 2nd most consecutive 1000-run performances in calendar year (2014-2017)
  • Fastest to 7000 Test runs (126 innings)
  • First batsman to score over 500 runs in three consecutive Ashes series
  • 2nd best batting average of players over 20 Test matches (62.84)

Steve Smith and Virat Kohli are talismanic figures who set the tone for their respective international sides, according to David Warner.

Australia's Smith and India's Kohli are two of the finest batsmen of their generation, occupying first and second spot respectively in the current Test rankings.

The duo are set to meet if India's tour of Australia – scheduled to begin in October – goes ahead, although significant doubt remains as the coronavirus pandemic continues to pose a threat.

If it should go ahead, Warner expects to see great things from the two leading men, who he says act as figureheads for their sides.

"When it comes to cricket, they both have got the mental strength, the mental capacity to score runs," Warner told Cricbuzz.

"They stabilise, they boost morale – if they score runs, everyone else's morale is up. If they are out cheaply, you almost sense that on the field that everyone is … [down on morale and thinking] now we all have to step up. It's a very bizarre situation.

"They both love spending time in the middle. Virat's passion and drive to score runs is different to what Steve's would be.

"Steve is going out there for a hit in the middle, that's how he sees things. He's hitting them out in the middle, he's having fun, he's enjoying himself, just does not want to get out.

"Virat, obviously, doesn't want to get out, but he knows if he spends a certain amount of time out there, he's going to score plenty of runs at a rapid rate.

"He's going to get on top of you. That allows the guys coming in [to play their own game], especially in the Indian team you've got a lot of players who can be flamboyant as well."

Ben Stokes has described Australia legend Steve Smith as both "strange" and a "genius".

The two are international rivals, with England all-rounder Stokes on the opposite side of the bitter Ashes divide.

However, they are team-mates with the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League and Stokes sees the same qualities in Smith whether he is playing with him or against him.

"He is still strange to play against and he's still strange to play with, and the best thing about it is that he admits it, he knows it," Stokes told the Rajasthan Royals Podcast.

"But I feel to be a genius you have to be a bit strange and you know he's certainly both.

"Even though he plays for Australia, biggest rivals of England, you've just got to hold your hands up sometimes to players like that and say, 'Yes, you're on a different level when it comes to batting.'"

Smith enjoyed a stunning Ashes series in England last year, scoring 774 runs in four matches at an average of 110.57.

Stokes was the hosts' star performer, his 441 runs coming at an average of 55.12, but he considers himself a fundamentally different type of batsman to Smith, who he says is "on all the time".

"I could never be like that," said Stokes. "Personally, I could not think about cricket in the way that Steve does when it comes to batting.

"Obviously, he's on all the time. That's why he averages 60 [62.84] after whatever he does in Test cricket. But that's not for me. It is for him, [and] who's to say who is right or wrong."

Tim Paine would "fully support" Steve Smith if he succeeds him as Australia Test captain but says there are other strong contenders for the job

Smith's two-year ban from leadership roles at international level for his part in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal ended this week.

Paine stepped up to replace Smith as skipper following his suspension and although the 35-year-old is in the twilight of his career, he has no intention of standing down just yet.

The wicketkeeper would back Smith should he get another chance to lead Australia, but believes there are alternative options for the powers that be to consider.

Paine said of Smith: "He's captain of the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL and Welsh Fire in The Hundred; it's something he loves doing.

"If Steve Smith decides that's the way he wants to go then I'd fully support him in trying to do so again."

He added: "We've got a number of guys to choose from who can put their hand up.

"There's Steve Smith, who's done it before, or the people who are developing underneath like a Travis Head or an Alex Carey -- Marnus Labuschagne and Pat Cummins are other ones.

"We're starting to build some real depth so that when my time's up we've got a number of options."

Paine has given thought to when he will step aside during a time of such uncertainty amid a coronavirus shutdown, but is giving nothing away.

"I know what I'm thinking, in terms of how far I can play on and we're [Paine, the selectors and head coach Justin Langer] on the same page," he told reporters via video conference.

Could Steve Smith ever captain Australia again? That is a question that took on new relevance on Sunday after Smith's two-year leadership ban ended.

Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were suspended from cricket after a ball-tampering scandal on the 2018 tour of South Africa.

A scheme was cooked up to use sandpaper to doctor the ball, with Smith being aware of the plan but doing nothing to prevent it going ahead.

Disgraced by the incident, Smith was served with a one-year playing ban that began on March 29, 2018, with a further 12-month suspension from leading Australia in any format of the game.

That period has now expired, which could open the door for Smith to return to the captaincy, although Tim Paine is the current Test skipper and Aaron Finch has the limited-overs job locked down.

Paine, 35, has hinted he may be nearing the end of his Test career, while 30-year-old Smith previously flourished in the role and has shone as a batsman since returning to the team.

Smith has attempted to deflect questions about returning to his former job as Australia's Test leader.

Speaking in November 2019, he said: "My record probably is better when I'm captain than when I'm not. That sort of pressure doesn't really bother me. But I'm not thinking about captaincy or anything at this point in time.

"I'm really comfortable where I’m at and I’m enjoying what I’m doing."

March 25, 2013 proved a momentous day for Tiger Woods following a rocky few years.

An all-time golf great, Woods' career appeared to be spiralling out of control towards the end of the 2000s.

But he was back at the top of the pile in March 2013, signalling an impressive renaissance.

It was also a notable – albeit controversial – day for Mike Tyson back in 1995, as the infamous boxer was released from prison after being convicted of rape in 1992.

Below, we look at those and the other major events to happen in the sporting world on March 25.

 

1958 - Sugar Ray Robinson claims historic fifth title

The phrase "pound-for-pound" essentially came into being because of Sugar Ray Robinson – a fighter whose performances in the welterweight and middleweight divisions earned him renown. A professional boxer in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, Robinson is regarded by many as the greatest of all-time and on this day in 1958 he became the first in history to win a world championship five times when he defeated Carmen Basilio.

1982 - Wayne Gretzky reaches 200 points for season

Wayne Gretzky's influence on ice hockey is unrivalled and he remains comfortably NHL's all-time leading points (goals and assists) scorer in history, with 2,857 – more than 900 clear of his closest challenger Jaromir Jagr. One of his finest accomplishments was becoming the first player to rack up 200 points in a single season during 1981-81, helping Edmonton Oilers to their first NHL title. He reached 200 with an assist early on against Calgary Flames, before adding another three points in that encounter. Gretzky finished the season with 212, 107 more than anyone else on the team.

1995 - Mike Tyson released from jail

After serving less than half of his six-year sentence for rape, Mike Tyson was released on March 25, 1995. He went on to ease through comeback fights against Peter McNeeley and Buster Mathis Jr, with Tyson's management accused of organising "tomato cans" to secure straightforward victories upon his return.

2013 - Tiger Woods regains world no.1 spot

After dominating golf in the 2000s, Woods endured a turbulent period from late 2009. Persistent injury problems, issues in his private life and struggles with a new swing all played a part in Woods dropping to 58th in November 2011. In March 2013, he was back on top thanks to victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, beating Justin Rose by two strokes.

2018 - Steve Smith punished for sandpaper gate

In March 2018, some Australia players were caught out in arguably the most infamous cricketing scandal ever. After admitting involvement in Cameron Bancroft's attempts at ball-tampering with sandpaper, captain Steve Smith was handed a one-match ban and fined 100 per cent of his fee by the International Cricket Council on March 25. That was just the tip of the iceberg, however. Smith and vice-captain David Warner were both banned for a year by Cricket Australia (CA), while Bancroft was given a nine-month suspension for his part in what CA labelled "cheating".

Australia let a promising position slip as South Africa levelled the Twenty20 series with a 12-run win in Port Elizabeth.

The tourists crushed the Proteas by 107 runs in the opening game of their limited-overs tour on Friday, bowling their opponents out for just 89.

They appeared set to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series after restricting South Africa to 158-4 despite Quinton de Kock's 70.

However, they slumped from 98-1 midway through the 13th over to finish on 146-6, well shy of a target perceived to be below par at the halfway stage of the contest.

Steve Smith stole the show in South Africa's powerplay, despite the hosts powering to 59-0 thanks mainly to the efforts of skipper De Kock.

Smith produced an incredible piece of fielding in the sixth over, catching a shot over the deep midwicket boundary from De Kock and throwing it back across the rope before he hit the ground to prevent what looked a certain six.

De Kock struck five fours and four sixes but was eventually caught at long off as Australia fought back, Rassie van der Dussen's 26-ball 37 the other primary contribution as the Proteas' early impetus petered out.

David Warner (67 not out) and Australia captain Aaron Finch put on 48 for the first wicket in 4.4 overs before the impressive Lungi Ngidi (3-41) struck.

Warner and Smith appeared in cruise control, yet both could be considered guilty of not scoring quickly enough and the latter went for 29 off 26 balls when Faf du Plessis raced in from the boundary to claim an excellent catch.

Alex Carey fell to Ngidi for 14 as South Africa's death bowling came to the fore.

Ngidi claimed his third when Du Plessis produced more brilliance in the field, parrying a high shot down the ground to David Miller to remove Mitchell Marsh, though Australia still needed just 20 off the final two overs with six wickets in hand.

Yet Kagiso Rabada drew a leading edge from Matthew Wade at the start of the 19th, during which Warner spent just one delivery on strike. 

Australia required 17 off the final six balls but could manage only four, Anrich Nortje bowling Ashton Agar as South Africa completed a fine comeback to ensure the third and final match on Wednesday will be a decider.

Steve Smith plans to "play along and have fun" with South Africa fans who dish out hostility over an ill-fated 2018 tour that cost him the Australia captaincy.

Smith and David Warner were suspended for a year and Cameron Bancroft received a nine-month ban for their part in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal during the third Test against the Proteas almost two years ago.

Both Smith and Warner are back in South Africa for Twenty20 International and ODI series', starting with a contest in the shortest format at the Wanderers on Friday.

Former skipper Smith had to contend with plenty of jibes in England last year after serving his ban and is expecting more of the same over the coming weeks.

"They are hostile at the best of times here," Smith told reporters on Wednesday. "It doesn't bother me too much.

"Like [coach] Justin Langer said we had the dress rehearsal in England where there was a fair bit going on but I honestly don't notice it, particularly when I am batting. I don't really hear anything that's going on and I block it all out.

"Maybe a little bit when I am fielding. But then again it's just words, it doesn't affect me. I think I will be doing some outfielding so I'm looking forward to it. I will smile and laugh and play along and have fun."

Prolific batsman Smith may be braced for verbals while on the field, but revealed he has received a warm welcome off it.

He added: "It's nice to be back playing in South Africa. The last time I was here things didn't end overly well, but I've also got really fond memories of playing here.

"Just walking into the hotel in Sandton, initially I was like, ‘the last time I left here it wasn't pretty’. It wasn't the best time in my life. But I've moved on from that and learned a lot.

"I've been back playing for a year now. I’m really enjoying it and I feel like I’m playing well. I'm in a nice place.

"Everywhere I have been the people have been lovely. Guys have come up and taken some photos and been really nice.

"It's been normal, the same as compared to when I've been here previously. It's a terrific place to tour and I'm glad to be back."

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