It won’t come close to making up for losing that World Cup semi-final but South Africa emerged the victors at Eden Park this time, and in convincing style. In turn it ended New Zealand’s unbeaten home season as they slumped to 107 in the chase, set back by two early wickets for Chris Morris and finished off by Imran Tahir’s career-best 5 for 24.
Hashim Amla’s classy 62 formed the centrepiece of South Africa’s 185 for 6 and if that felt a little underwhelming after a sticky final five overs, a double-wicket maiden by Morris soon had New Zealand on the back foot. He was followed Andile Phehlukwayo, who took three wickets, but the finishing touches belonged to Tahir, the No. 1 T20 and ODI bowler, as he became the second-quickest to 50 T20I wickets and was the second man on a hat-trick for the innings.
For all Tahir’s success to end the match, the Powerplay difference was telling: South Africa made 56 for 1 – as Amla scooted away – while New Zealand sat at 34 for 2 on the back of losing debutant Glenn Phillips and Colin Munro in consecutive balls to Morris whose second over was also a maiden. Phillips could be forgiven for his nervy innings, but Munro’s swing across the line of a full delivery was ugly for a more experienced player.
Dane Paterson, who played ahead of the rested Kagiso Rabada, helped set the tone with just seven runs coming off his first 11 deliveries – like Morris, hitting a back-of-a-length area and getting a bit of zip under the lights – before Tom Bruce took him for six.
But New Zealand couldn’t break free and Phehlukwayo strengthened South Africa’s position when he had Kane Williamson taken at deep square-leg. It was soon a full-fledged collapse as Corey Anderson and Bruce fell swinging and Luke Ronchi nicked his first ball from Tahir who became the third South Africa bowler to take five wickets in a T20I.
It was a little remarkable that there was a match at all given the volume of rain which had fallen in two days. There was some early swing but Amla, one of the South Africa players rested from the T20 series against Sri Lanka, batted serenely. He took a liking to Ben Wheeler’s first two overs, collecting six boundaries in all including four in a row at the start of the fifth over. He zipped to his half-century off 32 balls, was given a life on 61 when Ronchi missed a stumping but fell shortly afterwards when he hoicked into the deep.
Faf du Plessis, who enjoyed a productive home season, added 87 off 51 balls for the second wicket with Amla and he twice deposited Mitchell Santner into the stands straight down the ground. He was given a life on 34, when Santner made a mess of a skier at point, but fell the next over. By then, however, the platform had been set for South Africa to press for 200.
After Amla fell, AB de Villiers was just threatening to go through the gears when he lofted Colin de Grandhomme to mid-off midway through the 16th over and South Africa couldn’t quite summon the finish that had been on the cards despite JP Duminy’s best efforts.
The final five overs brought 46 runs and included the completion of an outstanding four overs from Trent Boult. Earlier he had removed Quinton de Kock for a duck, during an opening two-over spell which cost two runs, then returned to bowl the 11th for just four (and was the bowler to suffer from Santner’s drop) then finished his quota with a two-run 19th over. It gave him the second-most economical return by a New Zealand paceman in T20Is. But that was the only bright spot for them.