South Africa’s one-day side started in New Zealand as the No. 1 and they will end it there after an oscillating series went their way at a ground that now holds some good memories. There were a few jitters with the bat – there were bound to be, weren’t there? – but after a command performance in the field, which sucked the life out of New Zealand’s batting order, a target of 150 gave them breathing space.
From the moment that the hero of Hamilton, Martin Guptill, was defeated by Kagiso Rabada there was never any let-up from South Africa with the ball. Rabada was high-class on a surface offering more carry than any other in the series. Imran Tahir, who New Zealand have played well this series, then reeled off the most economical 10-over figures by a South Africa spinner – and the best by any spinner in an ODI in this country – as the innings almost came to a standstill.
Andile Phehlukwayo missed the Hamilton match with a minor groin injury and had a significant impact on his return with the wickets of Dean Brownlie and Ross Taylor. South Africa’s ground-fielding also conjured two wickets, including the major scalp of Kane Williamson, as New Zealand’s batting slumped for the second time in the series.
But they did not let their unbeaten one-day home record dating back to South Africa’s visit in 2014 go easily and for a moment mid-chase another Eden Park classic was not complete fantasy. Jeetan Patel had snaffled two – and had an lbw against Faf du Plessis overturned by DRS – and when AB de Villiers was bounced out by James Neesham – not a dismissal you would have put your house on – South Africa were 88 for 4 but du Plessis, who reached fifty with the winning boundary, and David Miller ensured against any further drama.