TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
SA put a shine on their winter of discontent with a display of will rather than wonder to clinch the one-day series against New Zealand at Kingsmead on Wednesday.
The home side prevailed by 62 runs to claim the rubber 2-1 in a match blighted by seven dropped catches and in which only three batsmen emerged from the 40s.
Blessed by batting first on the best pitch of the series, SA totalled 283/7. Tigerish bowling quelled New Zealand for 221 in 49.2 overs.
“We knew what we had to do in this game,” Kagiso Rabada said after SA took some of the sting out of losing a one-day series to Bangladesh for the first time last month.
SA’s innings was given shape by Hashim Amla, whose bigger-hitting opening partner, Morne van Wyk, fretted in frustration for much of his innings.
While Amla deftly chipped and dipped his way to 44 off 55 balls, Van Wyk stepped wide of his off-stump more often than orthodoxy would like for his 58 off 100 deliveries.
The product of their differing methods was a stand of 89, SA’s biggest opening partnership in their past 17 ODIs – a sorry streak that owes much to the now dropped Quinton de Kock’s poor form and goes back to the third match of the series against West Indies in East London on January 21.
A game earlier in that rubber, Amla scored an undefeated 153 and Rilee Rossouw made 128 in a first-wicket effort of 247. Then AB de Villiers shot the lights out with a ridiculous 149 off 44 balls. For all sorts of reasons, SA are no longer that juggernaut.
Van Wyk and Amla were together for 20.1 overs on Wednesday and their runs trickled rather than flowed at 4.41 to the over. That was significantly less bright and busy than the rate of 8.6 achieved by De Villiers and David Miller in the 10 overs needed to hammer 86 for the fourth wicket.
But, given SA’s inconsistency in those 17 ODIs – they won 10 and lost the rest – a steady rather than spectacular start to the innings was to be welcomed. Far better that than New Zealand’s lurch to 18/1, then to 102/2 and 114/3, and then to 141/4, 152/5 and 156/6.
The end of the home side’s time at the crease was another important factor in their success. Farhaan Behardien, whose value to to the team is often doubted, pulled his weight with a nuggety 40 off 28 balls that was ended with the last ball of the innings.
That put SA out of reach of the New Zealanders, whose challenge was dealt a mortal blow when Imran Tahir’s googly rattled into Kane Williamson’s stumps to end a second-wicket stand of 84, one of the innings’ only two partnerships of more than 30.
Twenty balls later the Kiwis’ goose was all but cooked by Miller’s underarm whip from midwicket, which ran out Tom Latham for 54, their top score.
After Dale Steyn and Rabada roared in emboldened by the decent total at their backs, David Wiese and Kyle Abbott did not let the intensity slip, and Tahir twirled and teased his way through 10 testing overs. SA took the last eight wickets for 107 runs.
Job done. And well done.