AB de Villiers’s well-paced 72 propelled the Proteas to a formidable 279-8 in the fourth ODI in Hamilton.
The finish by De Villiers may well prove the difference in this fixture. The Proteas captain initially took his time to adjust to the pitch, and then accelerated as the South African innings built to a climax.
The Proteas added 106 in the final 10 overs – a fine effort after averaging 4.32 runs per over in the first 40. De Villiers finished with 72 not out off 59 balls.
Kane Williamson said at the toss that he also would have batted first if given the option. Both captains felt that the wicket would only get slower as the game progressed, and that batting late in the contest would be difficult.
Williamson will have been pleased with the initial efforts of his bowlers against what was a formidable Proteas batting lineup. The dangerous Quinton de Kock was dismissed first ball by Jeetan Patel, and from there the visitors battled to sustain momentum or build any partnerships of real significance. The decision to open with Patel and another spinner in Mitchell Santner on this sort of track was inspired.
Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, and JP Duminy all got starts, but failed to crack on. The shot selection was poor, and on reflection, all three men will regret the manner of their dismissals. That said, the Kiwis did well to build the pressure and force the Proteas to take risks.
A mix-up between AB de Villiers and Dwaine Pretorius saw the latter run-out and the visitors reduced to 158-6. The Proteas skipper reacted to this wicket by throwing his bat into the air in disgust.
De Villiers found some support in the form of Chris Morris, and the two managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over until the 44th over. It was at that point that De Villiers decided to shift gears, hitting Santner for six on the on-side.
The hosts began to panic as De Villiers started to take control. At the other end, Morris and subsequently Wayne Parnell played their part in clearing the boundary rope. De Villiers and Parnell added 63 for the seventh wicket off 26 balls.
The New Zealanders will need to show composure in pursuit of what appears to be a good South African score. Runs won’t be easy to come by on what is a slow pitch.
The Proteas will clinch the five-game series if they go on to win in Hamilton today.
SA 279-8- (50 overs) – AB de Villiers 72 not out, Faf du Plessis 67, Hashim Amla 40, Jeetan Patel 2-57
New Zealand need 280 runs to win
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