South Africa won a nail-biting encounter by 4 wickets (D/L method) to take a 1-0 lead over New Zealand in the ODI series opener at Hamilton. Chasing a modest 208 in 34 overs (reduced due to rain), Proteas took the game till the last over and won it with a boundary coming from skipper AB de Villiers‘ bat.
With this win, Proteas remain unbeaten in 12 consecutive games (joint-longest streak for visitors) with the earlier ones coming in their own den. Talking about numbers, New Zealand lost their first game, out of 7 matches, in their own backyard to concede a lead in the series.
It has become a ritual of seeing delayed starts if a game is being held in New Zealand. The Chappell-Hadlee Trophy saw a similar picture and the script looked the same on Sunday morning. Drizzles kept on pouring from time to time and wet outfields delayed the start. As a result, the match got reduced to 34 overs a side. De Villiers opted to field as Kiwis got off to a poor start.
Chris Morris struck early to send Tom Latham for naught. He bowled at the stumps, aiming Latham’s pads with the help of some lateral movement. Morris eventually caught the southpaw in front. Dean Brownlie and skipper Kane Williamson played steady knocks to steer the ship, but the former departed after adding a 50-run stand. De Villiers kept on shuffling his bowlers with Kagiso Rabada and Morris being replaced by Andile Phehlukwayo and Imran Tahir. Trying to hold Tahir for the death overs, he brought in Morris and the decision paid dividends as he removed Brownlie (31) and Ross Taylor (1) instantly.
Morris was not done yet and sent back Neil Broom off a short ball. Williamson, amidst the collapse, stood firm by rotating the strike and smashing some beautiful shots round the corner. His six off Tabraiz Shamsi was the highlight of the innings. Nonetheless, Shamsi got the better of him to dismiss the No. 3 batsman for 59. James Neesham tried to take center stage in the concluding overs, but South Africa continued to make things difficult from other end.
After Neesham’s departure, momentum shifted towards the hosts completely. Colin de Grandhomme, who surprisingly came after Mitchell Santner (17 off 27 balls), played a vital cameo along with Tim Southee (24 not out) to take Kiwis past the 200-run mark. Kiwis added 61 runs off the last 30 balls with 25 coming off the last over from Morris.
Proteas looked to be marching towards the total with 88 runs on board without the loss of any wicket. Just when the going looked easy, they started to live up to their ‘chokers’ tag. From 117 for 1, they were reduced to 126 for 5. Williamson rotated his bowlers effectively. He used his spinners in the middle overs to slow things down. Ish Sodhi removed Faf du Plessis to start visitors’ downfall. Trent Boult sent a well set Quinton de Kock (69) as South Africa started to crumble.
Southee was introduced from one end and he exhibited some quality bowling. The ball was turning a bit under lights and he resorted to off spin and full length deliveries. The ploy paid dividends as JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien went without troubling the scorers a lot.
Morris came out in the middle and looked eager to run away with the game with some hard hitting strokes. However, he was deceived by a flighted delivery from Santner as Proteas succumbed to 156 for 6. The repair work was then started by Phehlukwayo – de Villiers pair but the going was not easy. Southee continued to play with batsmen’s minds and displayed a memorable spell filled with off-cutters, slow bouncers and wide yorkers.
The equation read 22 required off 12 balls when both the batsmen decided to step up. 10 came off the penultimate over but Southee steamed in to bowl the concluding over. The turning point was Phehlukwayo’s straight six on the second ball that sealed the deal for the tourists. He anticipated a slow bouncer and adjusted smartly. A perfect timing from the left-hander reduced the equation to 1 off 2 balls. De Villiers’ stroke right above the bowler’s head enabled a thrilling victory for Proteas.
De Villiers and his men must be thrilled to bits to win an encounter filled with rain delays, D/L method coming into play with them almost choking at the fag end of the match.
New Zealand 207 for 7 in 34 overs (Dean Brownlie 31, Kane Williamson 59, Colin de Grandhomme 34*; Chris Morris 4 for 62, Kagiso Rabada 2 for 31) lost to South Africa for in 210 for 6 overs in 33.5 overs (Quinton de Kock 69, Hashim Amla 35, AB de Villiers 37*, Andile Phehlukwayo 29*; Tim Southee 2 for 47, Mitchell Santner 1 for 33) by 6 wickets.
Man of the Match: Quinton de Kock