South Africa rallied together in the third and final One-Day International (ODI) to record a comfortable 62-run win, clinching the series 2-1 as a result. The hosts seemed to get everything right in the deciding clash. Amit Banerjee explains how South Africa’s bowling department played a crucial role in the victory.
South Africa have not been the most upbeat of teams in recent times. After the heart-breaking loss to New Zealand in the semi-final of ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the Proteas had to endure a 1-2 ODI series loss to hosts Bangladesh. South Africa therefore needed victories to bring joy back to their fans and vanquishing the Black Caps would be a satisfying way to achieve that. New Zealand, much like South Africa, have had a bit of struggle post the World Cup, in which they qualified for the final for the first time ever. They managed to draw the Test series against England 1-1 before losing the ODI series 2-3. They were in for a rude shock in Zimbabwe when they were handed a seven-wicket defeat in the first game of the three-match ODI series, which they eventually won 2-1. READ: All-round South Africa thrash New Zealand by 62 runs, claim series 2-1
The Proteas however, did not appear to be at their best even in the wins. Barring the first Twenty20 International (T20I), which was played at the same venue as the final ODI (Durban), New Zealand seemed to be a superior team, especially the bowling unit. While New Zealand won the second T20I and the second ODI decisively — the latter by eight wickets — South Africa just about managed to defend the 304-run target in the first ODI. PHOTOS: South Africa vs New Zealand, 3rd ODI at Durban
The main reason for the hosts’ struggle against the Kiwis in the ongoing tour can be mainly attributed to the overall non-performance of the bowling unit. During the T20Is, Morne Morkel and co. could not prevent the opening combination of Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill from getting their side off to a flying start. Guptill later made the Protean attack look like a bunch of schoolboys in the second ODI at Potchefstroom, putting on 126 for the opening wicket with Tom Latham. He finished with an unbeaten ton helping his side chase the 205-run target with eight wickets to spare.
Several factors could be pointed out over here. Both Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn were expected to lead the attack in the T20Is and ODIs respectively. While Morkel was terrible in the first T20I, his only appearance against New Zealand in the tour, Steyn continued to remain out of touch in the first two one-dayers, as he has been for quite some time now. READ: New Zealand must persist with Tom Latham in limited-overs cricket
The fact that the bowling unit regrouped this time, getting about everything right, helped South Africa play with the kind of dominance that they are associated with on home soil. They managed to get the early wicket of Guptill, which went a long way in restricting New Zealand. Williamson and Latham were going about building a major partnership, one that eventually was worth 84 runs, before the guile of Imran Tahir deceived Black Caps’ skipper Williamson.
Kagiso Rabada was exceptional in his performance as well, taking two wickets for 33 runs in his spell of 10 overs. David Wiese managed to get the key wickets at the crucial stages, despite being expensive. The duo’s efforts played an important role in helping the South Africans take wickets at regular intervals to keep the required run-rate out of reach for the Kiwis. The hosts were well on top during the middle overs. READ: SA vs NZ 2015: Tests would have done more justice than ODIs, T20Is
It turned out to be well-deserved win for the Proteas at the end of the day, with all three departments putting forward their best for South Africa to end the series in grand style. The victory was indeed a sweet one, and South Africa would be a happy lot to achieve it against the side that made the likes of AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel burst to tears in the semi-final of the recently concluded World Cup. The South African fan, however, should be aware that they haven’t avenged that loss as yet, for they beat a side that was without Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, the pace duo of Tim Southee and Trent Boult, all-rounder Corey Anderson, to name a few. Beating them in a crunch match of a major ICC tournament will be the real revenge.
(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, traveling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)
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