South Africa were led by Faf du Plessis in chase of 150 at Auckland    Getty Images
South Africa were led by Faf du Plessis in chase of 150 at Auckland Getty Images

South Africa continued their winning momentum in the 50-over format with another series win, this time versus New Zealand. Proteas won the series decider by 6 wickets to seal the series 3-2 at Eden Park, Auckland. With this win, Proteas regained the top spot in ICC ODI rankings after they were replaced by Australia, following the drubbing received at Hamilton. This has been a good dress rehearsal for the visitors before the all-important ICC Champions Trophy, in June, to be held in England and Wales. Full Cricket Scorecard, New Zealand vs South Africa, 5th ODI at Auckland

Opting to bowl, AB de Villiers side were on the money from the start. Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada bowled in tight lines and tested last match s hero, Martin Guptill s patience. The law of averages prevailed over the right-hander who followed his breathtaking 180 not out at Hamilton with a 16-ball 4 on Saturday. Dean Brownlie and Kane Williamson tried to steady the ship but poor calling for running between the wickets saw the skipper depart for 9. The duo tested de Villiers at short mid-wicket who churned out an easy run-out in the end.

Brownlie was the next man to follow, for 24. Andile Phehlukwayo, after missing the last game, came back strongly with a wicket-maiden over to send the right-hander packing. He was not done yet as he removed Ross Taylor for 8. Taylor was guilty of remaining in the crease, with minimal foot movement, as the ball struck his pads. He was adjudged out leg-before as the hosts’ innings started to slip. Luke Ronchi and James Neesham tried to rescue the ship but failed.

Morris was brought back in the 20th over to get rid of Ronchi. The wicketkeeper-batsman tried to leave a short ball but it kissed his gloves. Neesham looked in his elements and was striking the bad balls to the fence. Nonetheless, the task of rebuilding the innings got the better of him as he was outdone by Rabada s short-pitched ball. He was lazy into his shot, a half-hearted pull, and gave a simple catch to JP Duminy at backward point.

Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner tried to mend things but the latter was unable to rotate the strike freely. Santner fell victim to another run-out making a 50-ball 24. De Grandhomme was looking good but began to lose partners quickly. Tim Southee and Jeetan Patel came and perished as Tahir got among wickets. Rabada finished things for the visitors by dismissing de Grandhomme for 32 and giving his side only 150 to seal the series.

South Africa came into bat under the lights and lost Quinton de Kock soon. The left-hander failed in the last two games after three back-to-back fifties. Hashim Amla continued to blow hot and cold and went playing an uppish drive off de Grandhomme. Faf du Plessis looked rusty at the beginning but held his end. He got company after de Villiers after Duminy’s dismissal.

Nonetheless, Neesham produced a ripper, out of nowhere, to get rid of danger-man, de Villiers. The contest again hung in the balance with David Miller and du Plessis in the middle. The duo had to play an interesting session with Williamson using his premier bowlers, Southee and Boult, and Neesham judiciously.

The Eden Park’s pitch was doing a lot for the seamers in this low-scoring encounter as the spectators saw plenty of bounce, pace, seam as well as lateral movement. Kiwis believed they had a chance with de Villiers sitting in the middle and their bowlers started fuming with pace. Nonetheless, Miller was up for the challenge and played an attacking innings with a composed du Plessis at the other end.

Miller dominated the proceedings with some lusty blows off Patel and Boult. His confidence stated the series was pretty much done and dusted for the hosts. He remained unbeaten at 45 off 35 balls whereas du Plessis struck 51 not out off 90 balls. The duo added an unbeaten 62-run stand and chased the target with more than 17 overs left.

With this triumph, South Africa ended Kiwis’ eight consecutive ODI series wins at home and maintained their dominance in the format. This is Proteas’ third consecutive bilateral ODI series win over New Zealand in their den. It all started in 2011-12 (3-0), 2014-15 (2-0) and continued again in 2016-17 (3-2). Also, South Africa remain unbeaten since their whitewash over Australia at home last year.

In the end, de Villiers’ side’s depth in the batting line-up bailed them out on a pitch which had plenty for the seamers. However, New Zealand should also be proud of their efforts as they fought till the end.

The tour moves on with the first Test scheduled to take place from March 7.

Brief scores:

New Zealand 149 in 41.1 overs (Dean Brownlie 24, James Neesham 24, Colin de Grandhomme 32; Kagiso Rabada 3 for 25, Imran Tahir 2 for 14) lost to South Africa 150 for 4 in 32.2 overs (Faf du Plessis 51*, David Miller 45*; Jeetan Patel 2 for 26, Colin de Grandhomme 1 for 14) by 6 wickets.

Man of the Match: Kagiso Rabada

Full Cricket Scorecard, New Zealand vs South Africa, 5th ODI at Auckland