TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
AB de Villiers and Andile Phehlukwayo held their nerve through a tense final over to earn South Africa victory in the first one-day international against New Zealand in Hamilton on Sunday.
The visitors won by four wickets with a ball to spare in a match shortened to 34 overs-a-side by rain.
That gave South Africa a 12th consecutive win in ODIs.
Another success in the second match of the series in Christchurch on Wednesday and they will break the national record they set in 2005.
With 12 runs required off the last over, Tim Southee – bowling fast off-spin rather than his usual conventional pace – beat Phehlukwayo’s big swing with his first delivery.
But the batsmen scampered a bye to give the strike to De Villiers – who also heaved and missed at a ball that bounced high over his head and was called wide even as a second run was scrambled from it.
Then Southee steamed in with a slower ball, which the super cool Phehlukwayo lofted down the ground with a mighty swing for an arching six to narrow the equation to three runs required off four deliveries.
Phehlukwayo couldn’t do much with the yorker Southee served up next, but a precious leg-bye was garnered off the fourth legal delivery.
Southee attempted another yorker but missed his mark and presented a half-volley insisted – which De Villiers lashed down the ground for four to seal the win.
De Villiers, who was marooned at the non-striker’s end for the six deliveries it took for Trent Boult and Southee to dismiss Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien and reduce South Africa to 126/4 in the 23rd over, marshalled the rest of the innings superbly and finished not out on 37.
Phehlukwayo, who also hammered Boult for six in the penultimate over, scored an unbeaten 29.
The unbroken stand realised 54 runs off 43 balls, and took South Africa to 210/6 in reply to New Zealand’s 207/7.
De Kock, who hit nine fours and a six in his 69, the top score in the match, and Hashim Amla put on 88 for South Africa’s first wicket.
But the rest of the top six, De Villiers excepted, struggled to come to terms with a slow, sticky, spinning surface.
Chris Morris felt both sides of cricket’s double-edged sword in New Zealand’s innings.
He trapped Tom Latham in front before dismissing Doug Brownlie and Ross Taylor in one over and Neil Broom in his next.
But Morris’ figures, which read 4/24 when he had Broom caught at square leg with the last ball of his fifth over, ballooned to 4/62 when his last two overs bled 38 runs.
Two sixes and three fours flew off the final over of the innings, bowled by Morris, that went for 25.
The late blast was delivered by Colin de Grandhomme and Southee, who shared 51 runs off 23 balls for the unbroken stand.
That was the only partnership of 30 or more aside from a second-wicket effort of 50 by Brownlie and Kane Williamson.
New Zealand’s captain stood firm while Morris removed Brownlie, Taylor and Broom for the addition on the scoreboard of only 13 runs, and scored 59.