TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IT was the best of times for New Zealand, it was the worst of times for SA in the tale of two dropped catches that bookended the second Twenty20 in Centurion on Sunday and helped the Kiwis prevail by 32 runs.
In the eighth over of the visitors’ innings, David Miller sprinted from long-on and dived for all his worth but could not hang on to a chance offered by a heaving Martin Guptill off David Wiese.
Guptill, who was 38 not out at the time, faced 13 more balls and in all clubbed 60 off 35 in an innings that ended in the 12th over when he clubbed a full toss from Farhaan Behardien to long-on. Miller again sprinted and dived – and this time he held on.
AB de Villiers was on eight when he pulled viciously at a delivery from Jimmy Neesham. Tom Latham leapt high at short midwicket but spilled the catch.
Six balls later De Villiers hammered Nathan McCullum hard and high down the ground – only for Neesham to spot the steepling ball despite troublesome sun and take the catch cool as you like on the long-on fence.
After Guptill’s let off, New Zealand scored 111 runs at 8.9 to the over on their way to a total of 177/7.
De Villiers’ near miss was the prelude to SA losing six wickets for 93 runs and dwindling to a reply of 145/8.
Guptill and De Villiers are two of the most destructive batsmen in the game. If they come off, their teams tend to win. If they don’t, opponents know their chances have improved exponentially.
Sunday’s game was a case in point. Guptill, the only man in black to pass 30, featured in partnerships of 52 and 34, his team’s biggest. De Villiers’ 15 was part of stands of four and 28.
Guptill, who scored 42 in the first match of the series at Kingsmead on Friday, is the only batsman who owns more than 400 runs against SA in this format. Asked to explain that success, he offered a wholly inadequate answer: “It just seems to happen.”
SA’s innings was an anti-climax after a bowling and fielding performance that bristled with the promise of a series-clinching victory.
For the second time in as many matches Kagiso Rabada was on a hattrick. He didn’t complete it, but his haul of 3/30 was another impressive line on a rapidly swelling curriculum vitae.
One of those wickets was that of Colin Munro, who hoisted the ball high and deep towards the long-on boundary. De Villiers ran many metres, all the while keeping his eye latched to the descending white dot, to make a fiendishly difficult catch look disarmingly straightforward.
But there was no such super heroism about the home side’s innings. Rilee Rossouw let loose lustily for his 23, Farhaan Behardien’s 36 was hard graft all the way, and Miller’s flamethrown 29 off 20 balls threatened a miracle. All too briefly from SA’s perspective, as it turned out.
Now for the one-day series, which starts at the same venue on Wednesday. Some players don’t like crossing lines between formats. Not Guptill: “It gets the confidence up that we can beat this very good side.”