South Africa pose with the ODI trophy after beating New Zealand by 6 wickets    Getty Images
South Africa pose with the ODI trophy after beating New Zealand by 6 wickets in the final game Getty Images

New Zealand and South Africa locked horns on Saturday for the series decider of the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series. Evenly poised at 2-2, both camps had lots riding on them at Eden Park, Auckland, a venue which has produced some breathtaking contests in the recent past. ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 saw two of the best clashes held at the venue. One involved these two teams and the other had Australia and New Zealand facing each other. With its reputation of churning out low-scoring encounters and some periodical high-scoring games as well, spectators came in large numbers to expect another crackerjack of a contest. Full Cricket Scorecard, New Zealand vs South Africa, 5th ODI at Auckland

In the end, South Africa won the game easily by 6 wickets despite New Zealand’s fight. With this victory, the Proteas pocketed the series 3-2. Both sides will now move to the longer format starting from March 7. Here are some of the key moments from the fifth and final ODI:

Kiwis’ surrender against disciplined bowling performance: AB de Villiers had pointed out that there was lack of intensity during his side’s drubbing in the penultimate tie. However, the sun shined on him as he was lucky with the coin and opted to bowl. His bowlers and fielders did not disappoint and responded well. Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris tested last match’s hero, Martin Guptill’s patience and the former sent him packing for 4. The law of averages won the battle against Guptill as he failed to provide another rollicking performance.

What followed next showed the preparations of both the camps. Kiwis exhibited lack of common sense and half-hearted display amidst accurate bowling from Proteas. Dean Brownlie-Kane Williamson made the biggest mistake of testing de Villiers’ arms in the inner circle to sneak a quick single. As a result, Williamson went for 8. Ross Taylor, Luke Ronchi, Brownlie, Mitchell Santner and James Neesham crumbled as wickets fell like nine pins.

Neesham and Santner’s dismissal, in particular, showed careless approach. The former was looking good but played a half-hearted shot to Rabada’s perfectly-employed short ball to give a simple catch at backward point. Santner, like his skipper, ran by just dabbing the ball when it had not even crossed the inner circle.

Nonetheless, one should not take away anything from the South African bowlers. Morris and Rabada started well, Andile Phehlukwayo got important breakthroughs in the middle, Dwaine Pretorius was economical and Imran Tahir finished with 10-0-14-2.

Rabada- A deserving Man of the Match: Rabada has made giant strides in his short career. He has troubled top teams and established players. The 21-year-old has even spearheaded the attack in absence of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander. He was in his elements throughout the series and was adjudged Man of the Match for his efforts today. He ran with steam, resorted to the short ball-tactic smartly and targetted the stumps more often than not. His 7.1-0-25-3 (getting the scalps of Guptill, Colin de Grandhomme and Brownlie) was enough to rattle Kiwis for 149.

It was a memorable series for the youngster and he finished with astonishing numbers. An economy rate of 4.22, average of 17, strike rate of 24.1 and total of 8 wickets led Proteas to another series triumph.

Miller-Faf du Plessis led charge after early jolts: South Africa looked eager to choke in another small chase. They were reduced to 48 for 3 in 15.2 overs. New Zealand posed serious threat on a track conducive for pace. The spectators saw some immaculate bowling from Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Jeetan Patel and Neesham. There was pace, bounce, seam and adequate swing which opened up the contest. Patel, on the other hand, got wickets by sticking to the field and giving enough flight.

Nonetheless, du Plessis’ composure coupled with Miller’s aggression made things easy for visitors. The duo added an unbeaten 62-run stand with Miller slamming 6 fours and 2 maximums. Du Plessis (51 not out) looked rusty in the beginning but understood the need of hour to stick around with wickets tumbling at other end. As a result, Proteas won with 106 balls to spare.

Even de Villiers played a steady hand and looked set to bail his side, like he did in the previous games, but departed for 23. His dismissal came on a peach of a delivery by Neesham. It was a well-directed short ball which produced extra bounce. De Villiers was taken aback by the extra rise as Neesham produced a ripper out of nowhere.

Best travellers in recent times? Proteas have always fared well in overseas (irrespective of the format) conditions and choked in all ICC events. This is their story in the entire cricketing history till date. They again bolstered their away record by nailing New Zealand in their den. From 2011 to present day, they have won 8 out of 12 bilateral ODI series on the road.

South Africa also ended Kiwis eight consecutive series wins in 50-overs at home and regained the No. 1 spot in ICC ODI rankings. This is also Proteas third consecutive ODI series win over New Zealand in their backyard. It all started in 2011-12 (3-0), 2014-15 (2-0) and continued again in 2016-17 (3-2). Also, visitors remain unbeaten since their whitewash over Australia at home last year.